I often hear the elderly say “when I was young women knew their place in society”. Back in the 50’s women were there to cook the dinner, care for the children and not much else. We now think of this time and just laugh, we don’t allow ourselves to be treated that way anymore, or do we? This made me think of a film I would rather forget. Straw Dogs (2011) is a remake of the 1971’s film. It has a twisted way of looking at chivalry and a woman’s place in an ego driven world.
The film has a basic theme: What would you (the husband) do if another man wants your hot wife. The poor “hot wife” Amy is basically just the pawn in a celebration of violence. The film depicts Amy allowing the villain to rape her because she seems to enjoy it, which in my opinion is disturbing. What makes matters worse is that the original 1971 classic (unedited version) was banned up until 2002! Just shows how our standards have dropped just to get a cheap thrill! Amy’s feelings were never really of any concern, all that mattered was her husband’s violent revenge and that we could see her in wet clothes.
I am not saying that violence against women is new, it is just unnecessary. The 1970’s was particularly notorious for rape and violence in film, A Clockwork Orange was the centerpiece. These films although disturbing, were a reflection of the time they were made in. The original Straw Dogs had its place then, but why now? Surely women have been empowered enough to be seen differently?
Another recent film with rape as a central theme is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). We get to see the rape in great detail, but luckily we also get to see the victim take her revenge. Although it has been praised for its almost unnatural truthfulness in exploring Stieg Larsson’s idea, it is still in my opinion a bit strange that this film was such a hit but it can probably be attributed to the fact that we as filmgoers have been desensitized into believing that women don’t matter in film. Rape being in mainstream titles is just a symptom of this.
Now, it would be easy to argue that not all films cast women this way, but the stereotype of a strong male rescuing a helpless female lingers. The stereotyping of women is so common that it has been documented in scientific literature.
I have made my own check list just to prove how easy it really is:
- Hot almost naked chick: check
- Male lead actor: check
- Role of female – to be the love interest: check
Take a blockbuster like Transformers. If you look at the checklist it basically has exactly the same elements. Even Avatar fits the profile if you think about it!
Now combine this stereotype with female objectification in advertising and we can explain the trend. Advertisers are bold to defend this by arguing that women are less fussy about what they would like to watch, so they intentionally target young male audiences. Apparently women don’t really care what is on TV/at the cinema as long as they can be with their better half. So male audiences are thrilled to get even more action, more boobs and less female emotion.
Luckily there is a new trend that is reinventing popular film by casting female actors in very different roles. Think about films like Erin Brockovich, Kill Bill and even Bridesmaids. Interestingly enough The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has both elements; the stereotype and a strong heroine.
Very often these women still end up in uncomfortable situations where they are made fun of, but they fight their own battles, and that is refreshing. Wish they would just stop showing these women using their sexuality to get what they want, because this is just another example of the popular female stereotype.
To close, women should realize that they have an important role to play in their empowerment. They need to get off that couch, leave the cinema and speak up if they are not happy. Women make up half of the population, so it is time to start acting and stop complaining. Rape is unacceptable and we should not allow it to be thrilling ever.
About the author:
Margita is a creative writer at heart. She graduated with a B.Optometry degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2006, and now works part time in Optometry. She shares a tiny flat with her IT husband and a cat called Emo with a split personality. She is a Anime addict, casual gamer and a film fanatic.