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?
Who in God’s name thinks that this is a good idea? I mean… come on. Some things are just really, really ill-conceived. For example, I know darned well my miniskirt days are over. But I’m okay with that.
I’m sure several of my regular readers are going to argue that people should have a right to wear what they darned well please. I agree. And heaven knows I’m not exactly an arbiter of good taste. But sometimes you have to accept that what you wear sends a message.
As an adult male, I would not want to send the message that I’m really three years old and there ought to be a flap in the back of this get up so I have an easier time going number two. And anyone who has the slightest beer gut is going to walk around looking like one of those tomato pin cushions your mom had in her sewing kit.
All forms of infantilization drive me up a wall. I’ve discussed baby talkers before. I also think grown women in pig tails or with ribbons in their hair, or senior citizens who dress like pre-teens, are rather silly.
Even 75-year-old rock stars who haven’t figured out when to call it quits would not be caught dead in rompers. That’s just a guess, of course. But I think it’s a fairly safe one.
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Did you ever have a slumber party as a child? Just thinking back on them gives me butterflies in my stomach. It was always so exciting to change your routine, stay up late, giggle with friends, eat unhealthy stuff, gossip, bond, play… Seriously, why did we ever stop?
I think it would be great fun to have a slumber party as an adult. The biggest hurdle would be finding adults to invite who wouldn’t think you were completely off your nut. I think this is one of the reasons we go camping and sleep on the cold, damp ground. We aren’t willing to admit that what we really want is a slumber party.
So this week I did a little thought experiment. Every night I had a slumber party with my inner child. I indulged myself. I got comfy, cozy, ate stuff that wasn’t exactly good for me. I watched movies, snuggled with my dogs. Stayed up late. It was kind of nice, actually. You should try it.
“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” ― C.S. Lewis