There are a lot of things that Hollywood does right, but that doesn't mean that there aren't aspects that they could improve on either. One of the major ones is the needless sexualization that some of their characters are subjected to on a "daily" basis. Given, sexuality is part of the human experience and shouldn't be ignored, but there's a huge difference between including it because it furthers the plot. This has become a growing issue over the years and, while some aspects of the media may be taking steps toward resolving this issue, the solution is not even close to be widely used.
With the amount of "pretty faces" that mainstream media is saturated by, it's easy to see why those working on films would decide to include them in this light; but that doesn't make it right either. You have to remember that while putting the body on display, especially those possessing the female form, has been a widely used practice, especially in classical art forms, it was typically done to bring forth a message. We have come a long way from the classic Venus statue and, while we may still celebrate the body and all of its beauty, today's media seems to have forgotten that it's just a vessel, there to hold someone's personal reality. So, without further ado, here are some of the best examples taken from blockbuster films who could have taken their sexualization down a notch or two.
3 Elena de la Vega — The Mask of Zorro (1998)
While Elena de la Vega may have been one of the strongest leading ladies that Hollywood has seen in some time, the producers still somehow managed to sexualize her character in a needless way. The prime example of this is when she and Zorro were having their sword fight and then, once he had the sword to her throat, he thought it necessary to cut off her dress. Given, the movie was relatively kid friendly so nothing was really seen but that doesn't nullify the point whatsoever. Despite her swordsmanship being on equal footing to that of the masked vigilante he cannot help but see her more as an object of sexual desire than a skilled individual. Sure, he could have still demonstrated some sort of sexual attraction to her (and considering that Catherine Zeta-Jones was playing her it's completely understandable) but was this insensitive act really necessary? She was already beaten for God's sake, there was no need to get her down to her knickers in the process.
Yes, Ryan Reynolds is one of those Hollywood actors that most women (and some men) have ogled at least once in their lives but, was the costume choice in this particular scene in Blade: Trinity really necessary? This particular movie moment occurred when Danica Talos and her men were questioning him about Blade's whereabouts and, yes, it was an important scene but that doesn't mean that Reynold's couldn't have had a shirt on during it. Given, he's definitely an attractive man and worked his butt off to achieve the body presented in the film but there was no real point in presenting him shirtless. Put it this way; the crew could have still found a way to demonstrate his injuries with a shirt on and, if anything, it may have actually been a better call. Why? Because it would have proved as less of a distraction, thus allowing the audience to focus more on the dialogue and less on the jaw-dropping body they were presented with.
Did Chris Hemsworth work hard to obtain a body worthy of the Asguardian warrior? Yes. Was he comfortable showing it off? Not really. While Thor: The Dark World may have been a smash hit, the movie's opening sequence could have been edited down, thus making the actor a lot more comfortable with what was going on. The idea of it all made sense: warrior comes back home and wants to wash the blood of the fallen off it his hands but, at the same time, the sequence did not have to be A) as gratuitous as it was and B) have him be shirtless. Thor could have easily walked into the same body of water and poured it onto his arms and hands which would then result in dried blood running back into the water but that wasn't the idea that Joss Whedon, the movie's director, had in mind. Instead he wanted to have Hemsworth lose the shirt and play out the moment until he would then splash water onto his chest because it was... romantic? Don't ask, even Chris Hemsworth doesn't really get it.
Space Jam may have been geared at children but the portrayal of the lovable and extremely talented Lola Bunny was simply not PG-13. Yes, she is a definite asset to the team and, in one way or another, is a symbolic representation of "girl power" but all of that is completely overshadowed by her sex appeal. Throughout the movie, she is constantly subjected to the male gaze and is even checked out by none other than Michael Jordan at one point! That being said, her short-shorts and crop top paired with a fair amount of "provocative" poses definitely hold partial blame here but the way that she acts is just the topping on the cake. Her never-ending flirtatious nature that holds more than a simple dash of the sexy-but-innocent vibe made jaws drop left and right and it's easy to see why. The way that she carries herself, moves and even gazes at those around her send signals that the men simply cannot resist. Can you blame them? Nope, but she's more than just a pretty face and should have been treated as such.
While the lovely Denise Richards may have been playing a supposed brainy Bond girl, the production crew thought it best to push all of that aside and put all of their focus on making her as physically appealing as possible. Dr. Christmas Jones was supposed to be a young nuclear physicist which, all things considered, would make her a valuable plot character but instead she was just turned into another one of those girls who was simply there to be gawked at. With her short-shorts, dresses with thigh-high slits and amply displayed bosom all of this character's potential was literally thrown out of the window and somehow blew up in the process. Given, she had to have some kind of sex appeal to formulate the desired heat between the pair but that doesn't mean that she couldn't have had some brains too. In her defense, Dr. Christmas Jones does have some valuable intel which she then shares with one of the best spies that Hollywood has ever seen but she could have been so much more than just a pretty face with a few wise words to share.
Considering that Swordfish has an all-star cast you would think that gratuitous nudity wouldn't be necessary to bring in the audiences and, while that may not have been the case, it sure was welcomed. Before appearing in this 2001 film, Halle Berry had a squeaky-clean image and had not taken part in nude scenes but she took this as an opportunity to change that and, while it may not have been necessary for the film, it was her choice. You see, she took this as an opportunity to get over her fear of partaking in this sort of scene and, for that, you have to applaud her. That being said, the modern day femme fatale didn't need to expose her bare breasts to the camera and, if anything, it took away from the appeal of the scene and the reason why she did it in the first place. When even the producer stated that it was just a cool thing for the character to do and would be a way to bring people into the theatres, then you know that there's a problem.
There were so many things wrong with Catwoman that it's hard to know where to begin but, for the sake of this article, let's stick with how she is portrayed. Halle Berry has never been a bad actress and, on a similar note, Catwoman has always been a puuur-fect example of a femme fatale but that sadly was not the case here. In the 2004 portrayal of this specific character, there was a lot more focus on her sex appeal than her ability to stand on her own two feet and that's probably one of the main reasons why this movie fell so short. Given, the men in the audience absolutely adored seeing Berry, one of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses, in what can only be described at fetish gear but it just was not called for. When you consider that almost all of the other versions of this lovable comic book character are wearing a full body suit you can only ask yourself why they made this specific costume choice. The most likely of reasons: they wouldn't get anyone into the theatres otherwise.
Yes, Tinker Bell may be the lovable and sassy companion of the boy who simply refuses to grow up, Peter Pan, but maybe she should have taken his lead on this one and slowed down just a little bit. On the surface Tinker Bell may be Peter's cute little companion who gets kidnapped by Captain Hook but when you look at her with a critical eye she is more a sex symbol than anything else. With a dress that barely even goes past her hip bones and legs for days (or at least as much as a fairy can possibly have) the resemblance to the sex symbol of the time, the pin up girl, is hard to miss. It would be a different thing entirely if her dress was a few inches longer and she wasn't captured in such a provocative way: does the keyhole scene with her flashing her panties to the audience ring a bell? But that simply is not the case. All things considered, Peter Pan will always be a classic children's film and, while the fairy may have a sexy connotation to it, nothing would have changed if Tinker Bell were to be designed like she was in one.
2 Ellen Ripley — Alien (1979)
All in all, the Alien franchise does a stand up job at equaling the playing field and that very point is brought home with the strong female protagonist, Dr. Ellen Ripley. However, despite how she can stand on her own two feet there was a confusing instance where those working on the film thought that it would be best to sexualize her character for no apparent reason. This occurred in the first Alien movie when she needlessly took off her pants and shirt before flipping a couple of the ship's switches. Sure, she climbs into a spacesuit shortly after because of the nearing threat of the alien species but there's no explanation as to why she did the act in the first place. It is speculated that Ripley does this to humanize her character but it still seems more like a way of putting her body on display, in an albeit unflattering way, than anything else. The least that they could have done was given her a pair of panties that fit her properly, thus allowing the audience to view her as a woman who is willing to take care of herself instead of one who would then be subjected to the audience members' ridicule.
Leeloo is truly unique and can even be thought of as humanity's one and only hope against those who are thought to have the ability to end life as we know it, the Great Evil. She is literally the fifth element and the rare addition to the more famously recognized earth, wind, fire and air who just so happens to take on the form of the perfected human specimen. However, when she is first introduced she is presented in a very sexual way. Despite the inherent strength and need to protect human kind that Mila Jovovich's character possesses her bandage getup sends out a very different message. The barely-there white strips going around her body cover the necessary areas and hardly anything else, simply enough to make it stable-ish; aka enough to avoid any indecent exposure. While she does dress more conservatively after she runs into Korben Dallas, the audience's initial meeting with her will forever be in their minds thus making her the needlessly sexy hero whose pretty face is more important than the role that she plays in saving every last being on Earth.
On the surface, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider may just seem like a cool film that features a strong female protagonist with some serious butt kicking abilities but, when you dig a little deeper, it's all about how a woman can't escape her role as a sex object, no matter what. Sure, we all know that there's more to this badass archeologist than what she looks like taking a shower, but you can't help but wonder why they even included scenes that were gratuitously sexual in the first place. The uncalled for shower scene that then led into some side-boob action and needless removal of some clothing before deciding to then set into action are just a few examples of how this Hollywood blockbuster just couldn't drop the sexualized aspect of the Lara Croft character. Just because she was depicted one way in the video games leading up to that point didn't mean that they had to continue on the tradition and, if anything, they pushed it even further than any of its predecessors. She is simply one of those characters who has so much to give and, despite being sexy in her own way, doesn't have to be deliberately so just to intrigue an audience. She's sexy no matter what, maybe one day Hollywood will finally realize this and let her simply do her thing.
Dr. Carol Marcus could have been a valuable asset to the rebooted Star Trek movie franchise, especially considering that she's supposed to be an advanced weapons expert but this fact was simply overlooked somewhere along the way and this issue was never resolved. In the older versions of the series, whenever she appeared there seemed to be a reason why she was there but, when it comes to this particular film you can't help but ask yourself if she would really even be missed if she were never to be there at all. The only mayor impact that she had within the film that was purely intentional was during a scene that was completely uncalled for which was since raised more questions than it answered: the underwear scene. She calls direct attention to her albeit attractive female form and even asks Captain Kirk why he's looking away but... why? Why does this scene even exist if it does nothing for the plot whatsoever? It's not a work of cinema magic either; it was shot in a way that did not radiate professionalism. Just because you have a female character who carries the title of doctor doesn't mean that you have a meaningful role or purpose, it all depends on how you utilize said character.
Princess Leia has become a feminist icon, or at least someone who women can look up to, because of her strong personality and determination to get the job done. However, this particular projection can quickly be overlooked when you throw "slave Leia" into the equation. The scene where she is taken prisoner by crime overlord Jabba the Hutt has become one of the most memorable scenes in the entire franchise because of the impact that it had on both the audience and the film itself. The dramatic costume change brought on by the situation at hand meant that she had to cast her typically modest garb aside and put one something a little more revealing. The gold bikini has stood the test of time as one of the sexiest costumes to date and she looks great in it but why she's in it is a different story altogether. It has been speculated that Carrie Fisher had to wear it to "soften up" her character because she was thought of as too tough and cold-hearted for her own good but it doesn't really serve any purpose. While it may be implied that Jabba has taken Leia as his personal sex slave there's nothing that really pushes this idea home, thus making the majority of the scene nothing more than a compilation of sexual fantasies.
Megan Fox has never been known for portraying characters with very much depth but her role in the first and second Transformers movies was just ridiculous. When you consider that Mikalea Banes could have been the perfect addition to the films because of her mechanical background, her father was a mechanic, and strong personality there was so much that could have been done with her. Given, Megan Fox is an attractive female but that doesn't mean that 95% of her on-screen time had to put her on display instead of doing anything useful. Sure, she was able to provide mechanical assistance and the like but, more likely than not, all you can remember from that sequence are the lingering shots of her bending over the hood.
1 Harley Quinn — Suicide Squad (2016)
Harley Quinn could have been an amazing character to have in Suicide Squad, if only the people working on it saw her potential. Given, Margot Robbie was an amazing casting choice and she nailed the script but the sheer depth of her character was little to none. Considering her tragic backstory and complex relationship with the Joker, her character was one that women could relate to because she was human. It was as simple as that. However, in Suicide Squad she was portrayed as a crazy woman who was not really anything more than a nice piece of ass to look at on the screen. With the camera focusing on her bending over for a little too long, lingering shots up her body, non-existent bottoms and more this tragic beauty's potential was literally thrown out of the window and used for target practice. Given, it's probably not the last time that we'll be seeing Harley Quinn on the big screen, and that's great, but if Hollywood is planning on impressing her ever-expanding fan base they're going to have to do a lot better of a job focusing in on who she is as a person instead of what she looks like bending over.
Sources: Gizmodo, Yahoo, Moviepilot, The Guardian
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