My least favorite movie on the face of the earth is the Fifth Element. And that’s disappointing to me, because the cinematography and the special effects were amazing. It depicts a fascinating future world, and I’m usually engrossed by that. But along with all the good things about this movie, it crams a cliché down your throat to such an extreme degree that it can’t be overlooked.
I recently watched this video on this very subject, and while it’s 18 minutes long, I highly recommend it. You’ll never see this cheap writer’s device the same way again. I’m talking about the trope which the video aptly calls “Born Sexy Yesterday”.
Basically, it’s the overused theme of a full grown woman with the mind and inexperience and innocence of a child. That is exactly why I hate the Fifth Element. It is the most extreme example of this trope that I’ve ever seen. She speaks a childish language, like Betty Boop on steroids. She strips naked in front of men, not realizing that she shouldn’t do so. She has to be taught the most basic life skills. And yet she can kick your butt.
Once you know how to spot it, you see this theme everywhere you look. A classic is Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. What woman with sense God gave a goose is going to stand on a metro grate and let her skirt be blown up and have no idea the way that is impacting people around her?
Another one is I Dream of Jeannie. She can’t grasp the trouble she causes. And she absolutely adores her “master”, even though he spends the bulk of his time berating her. That’s another part of this cliché. The men involved are really nothing special. In fact, many of them are outright jerks. And yet these women adore them, mainly because they’re too stupid or sheltered to know better. Talk about every man’s fantasy.
I also have to grit my teeth during the scenes in Pulp Fiction where several of the women are as dumb as a box of rocks. One is madly in love with her criminal boyfriend, but nearly gets him killed when he has to retrieve his heirloom watch which she accidentally left behind when they’re running from killers. Another is a sexy cab driver who seems imbued with so much sexuality that she apparently can’t function on any other level. And then there’s “Honey Bunny”, who paints herself into a Mexican Standoff of epic proportions.
Oddly, the video I mentioned above does not cite any of these examples except the unavoidable Fifth Element. Probably because there are so many more to choose from. Tron: Legacy. Splash. My Stepmother is an Alien, Forbidden Planet, pretty much every Japanese Anime movie ever made, The Time Machine, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Demolition, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.
This theme is all about power over helplessly innocent women. It allows average men, despite all their flaws, to be viewed as the most amazing, most adoration-worthy things on earth. It remove’s men’s fear of rejection. Men are the experts, the leaders, the wise ones. They are to be admired. Women are sexy yet mindless machines, innocent objects, and passive, unjudging, idiotic worshipers who need to be rescued and protected.
In the Me Too era, this concept is particularly hard to take. And that annoys me, because darn it, I’ve loved the Forbidden Planet and Pulp Fiction and Seven Year Itch and Planet of the Apes and… sigh. Writers, please come up with some new ideas, will you?
13 thoughts on “The Tasteless Tale of the Innocent Sexpot”
Bruce Willis’ character doesn’t die in Pulp Fiction—though he does kill John Travolta’s character when he goes back for the watch.
I lost track.
Ask Sim. I have ranted on about the fact that in movies, TV, etc., male characters can be played by men of all ages and levels attractiveness. Women must be young and gorgeous. Well if they are the lead female character, they do. I recently watched Wonder Woman. Yes, I know her outfit is iconic, but really, couldn’t she get some leggings and a jacket and be just as effective? Must she wake up coiffed and non-puffy in the midst of a war zone?
If you watch the edges of the movie or TV screen, even the Female extras walking by on the sidewalk are gorgeous; the guys not so much.
Perhaps the #metoo movement will stop the casting couch mentality and we will see average looking women in leading roles. It is all about acting, isn’t it?
One last thought.. I have been particularly ticked so many times at the portrayal of Jane Eyre.. she was plain..and small and so damned brave. Let her be plain and small and show her extraordinary braveness instead of her looks.
Okay, I think I am done now.
It really does get to be too much, doesn’t it?
I will say that in original Planet of the apes all humans at that time had lost the power of speech and were essentially wild animals and herded by the apes. That being said, of course Nova had to be drop dead gorgeous, in a furry revealing swim suit for the entire movie
AND she adored him. Guess she didn’t know his real politics.
Not did I then, loved the movie as a kid
So did I.
Have you heard of the Bechdel test? a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.
Also known as the Bechdel–Wallace test, the test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, in whose comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For it first appeared in 1985. Bechdel credited the idea to a friend, Liz Wallace, and to the writings of Virginia Woolf.
Armed with this simple test it becomes obvious just how often Hollywood creates films that show women’s lives as important only insofar as they relate to men.
How profoundly depressing. But spot on.