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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

MALE OBJECTIFICATION


I thought I'd share this blog entry that I found on MORPHOSIS's blog:

Maybe it's all the "True Blood" we've marinated in this summer, but between Eric and Alcide frolicking half-naked on the small screen, superhero after superhero displaying their superwaxed superchests, and the increasingly lascivious casting announcements for Steven Soderbergh's male-stripper movie "Magic Mike", it's time to notice that we may be entering a new Golden Age in American entertainment : the Golden Age of Male Objectification.

For decades, while film and television have gotten progressively racier, the objects of the camera's increasingly lurid gaze had largely been women. The reasons for this are so unofficially official they're like unwritten laws, habits that have been codified into "common sense" even if they don't make much sense : Hollywood's a boys' club and male audiences want sex and violence, while women want hearts and flowers. So women are lusted after by the cameras, while audiences looking for a little bit of dude to ogle had to be content with tame rom-coms, subtext, and the dreaded "Comedy Penis".

But no more ! The summer of 2011 officially became the season that the male gaze was reflected back at itself -and with enthusiasm ! In the summer's superhero movies, a supremely buff body became part of what made these heroes so super. The "Captain America" trailer had Dominic Cooper doing the old look-over-the-top-of-my-sunglasses move to get a load of the newly pumped up Chris Evans. In "Thor", Kat Dennings's audience-surrogate character spends half the movie talking about how nutso everything is and the other half pointing out that this blond god from the heavens is massively pumped. Fourteen years ago, America lost it when Batman's costume included rubber nipples. Now we've got a Spider-Man whose costume lifts and separates. 

And consider the "yowza ! yowza !" ad campaign for "Crazy Stupid Love" that centered around Ryan 'You-look-photoshopped' Gosling's gleaming torso. "Friends with Benefits" saw the upset of the year when Justin Timberlake ended up more exploited than Mila Kunis. Whole sections of plot in "The Devil's Double" centered around staring at Dominic Cooper while he took a shower. During the '2011 Summer of Dude', what was previously subtext became text. This wasn't just, "Oh, Paul Newman had a legitimate reason to take his shirt off in this scene" stuff. Emma Stone stopped "Crazy stupid Love" in its tracks so we can all get a long, lingering look at at the physical perfection of her male counterpart, and Ryan Gosling just stood there and let us watch.

The trend doesn't seem to be going anywhere, at least not if Steven Soderbergh has anything to say about it. Once again, male sexuality is getting put on front street, with Channing Tatum playing a stripper, joined by an ever-expanding cast of exploitable males, who have already been served up for prurient public consumption : Alex Pettyfer, whose "Beastly" was almost entirely about the loss and reclamation of his Abercrombie good looks; Joe Manganiello, his "True Blood" werewolf as naked as he is boring; and Matthew McConaughey, who turned being photographed working out into a cottage industry. Matthew Bomer counts as the demure one, and that's only because "White Collar" features him gratuitously shirtless once every other episode.

This fall offers quite a few more opportunities for trend-spotting. The bro-fighting drama "Warrior" might not have Tom Hardy doing anything quite so titillating as working out in sweatpants, but time was you couldn't show two sexy men sweating all over each other without at least six tossed-in scenes of topless women to counterbalance it, the cinematic equivalent of bros sitting with a buffer seat between them. Will the upcoming gods-and-togas saga "Immortals" take the winking beefcakes of "300" even further into the realm of dudesploitation ? And then there's the sure to be "NC-17 Shame", which stars Michael Fassbender as a sex addict; both he and Carey Mulligan go full frontal in this film, but thus far, he's the only one getting attention for it. 

As revolutions go, the movie industry learning to exploit their male movie stars is more a matter of fairness than real upheaval. It's not like women are suddenly not being objectified; now it's just objectificationfor all. But if the upshot is a slight widening of the traditional Hollywood gaze, a recognition that all sorts of audiences are looking for tawdry thrills at the movies —not to mention, more movies about male strippers with hearts, and asses, of gold— how is that not progress ?

10 comments:

  1. About time. I've been waiting for years for men to finally be free to reveal all that sexiness on camera. And not be shy about it... not act like they have no idea how hot they are.

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  2. Interesting. Could be it that this is what men need now. No more sheets LOL. I'm glad that men are being noticed and there is no more people saying "Stop objectifying me."

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  3. I would agree, but for the Calvin Klein ads in the 1980s. Some might be too young to remember but Calvin truly started all this with his underwear, fragrance and jeans ads back in the 1980s, some of which really pushed the envelope.

    I suspect this is more about the sexualization of our culture for the purposes of profit. We use sex to sell practically everything today from cigarettes to booze to perfume and clothes. We are all drawn to a pretty face and sexy bodies and advertisers use this sell their products.

    ReplyDelete
  4. THOMAS: WHEN DO YOU THINK THE SEX SELLS MOTTO CAME ABOUT?

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  5. It goes back further than even the 1980s. Valentino was objectified as a male sex symbol back in the silent movie era. Then came the beefcake 1950s-70s. Remember Arrrrrnold in his bodybuilding prime? Maybe handsome men & pretty women (in their glorious youth) will always have a part in being objectified by someone or some societal entity, whether they want that sort of attention or not.

    I know it's ALWAYS been mad rough for ME!

    I kid. I'm kiddin! I'ma kidder. I kids!

    One.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey, check out http://daventryblue.blogspot.com/2011/11/who-does-ang-lee-think-he-is.html?zx=234a4e155c7b6412

    ReplyDelete

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