What Modern Movies Say About Our Society
Early on in the new millennium, a series of “teenage dirtbag” movies came out:Euro Trip, Not Another Teen Movie, and the notorious American Pie. Since then, a few movies with the immature but totally attractive approach to comedy have come out. Movies like The Hangover, Knocked Up, and Superbad. The latest movie of this kind is 21 and Over, one that I made the mistake of seeing yesterday.
My problem is this: I love a good comedy, but find myself torn between appropriate comedy, and inappropriate comedy. And not in the “oh no there is a penis on-screen” kind of humour; in this day and age that is a given. But how far is too far with sexual and racial jokes? This is a question I found myself negotiating answers to as the poor plot unfolded on screen.
Within the first few minutes, I realized that this movie was really only “ha ha funny”, as in none of the comic relief causes us to laugh naturally. Instead each giggle was a result of feeling like we were being prompted by the signs they have on live talk shows.
Another thing that became clear was how sexually objectifying and patriarchal this movie was, even within the first few minutes. There were constant references being made to the nubile sister of Casey (played by Skylar Astin), with blunt references to what Miller (played by Miles Teller) intended to do with her. There was even a brief discussion of sexual intercourse between Casey and his sister. Incest much?
Believe it or not, things only went downhill from here. After spending time at a bar, the two guys, along with their drunk “yellow” friend, Jeff Chang (played by Justin Chon) who was constantly being reminded he was Asian, snuck into a girl’s sorority. Looking to track down a girl they had met there, they sneak into the “Latina Sorority” by accident. Here, there were a string of jokes about “crazy Mexicans” with “fat asses”. And naturally came the part where the two boys found themselves in a room with two blindfolded girls ready to be spanked, which Miller thoroughly enjoyed. The girls were forced to make out and fondle each other on the spot.
After escaping the “crazy Latina bitches”, they found themselves at another sorority. When they were greeted by a young Caucasian girl, Miller actually said “Thank God you’re white”. At this point, I had had enough. I grew to feel guilty for watching this movie, and laughing at the parts I felt prompted to, especially as a non-white female, but ultimately as a person with morals, ethics, and taste.
After watching this movie, I thought about what it might mean that these kinds of films are still being produced and watched. While it is comforting to know that the movie was only rated 5.4 stars out of a possible 10 on imdb, I feel that those were 5.4 stars more than the film deserved.
It would be very naïve of me to say that we should boycott these movies entirely; naïve and ineffective to say the least. Instead, perhaps the solution is to watch these movies. Maybe we should all just have a big movie night in which we revisit the movies that have been fundamental aspects of our developing years. I mean, what teenager or mid-twenties person hasn’t seen American Pie?
That is precisely the issue. We have seen these movies over and over and over again. We laugh at the jokes because they are so recurring that it must mean they are funny, even if something inside us tells us that there is something wrong with the message. We’ve been blinded by a series of different things that impede us from considering our morals and heck, our feelings, into what is funny and what is not.
The bigger issue here is not that these movies are watched and supported and continue to be made. The issue is that these films are largely where we get our ideas about women, our ideas about patriarchy, and our ideas about ourselves from. For us to think that we are impermeable, when in fact, the age group these movies have as their intended audience is perhaps the group of most impressionable people, is wrong.
If you’re asking what this has to do with International Women’s Week, I'd like to remind you of what I said in Monday’s blog entry. I stated that the ultimate objective of this entire week is to raise awareness. It’s to bring attention to the changes necessary for helping society arrive at a fairer place. While as individuals, changing the world is quite the difficult task, collectively, it becomes easier. This happens through awareness.
Recognizing that this kind of sexualization and objectification of women has no place in our society is crucial in having it removed. And really, there is no place for it in our changing society.
Recent studies show that the amount of women enrolled in universities is at an all-time high, and is even higher than the enrolment of men. And despite not earning as much as men, women are well on their way there to breaking through the glass ceiling (google this word if you are unfamiliar with it). And another first time in history is that if Kate and Will have a baby girl; she will be the next inheritor, as opposed to their usual system of handing it off to the next male. This is HUGE.
I hope that not only this week, but from here on out, you heighten your ability to align your beliefs, morals, actions, feelings and words. It is my wish that you find a harmony within yourself that allows you to watch these movies and use them to outline precisely what is wrong with this world. Our entertainment is so highly reflective of trends and indicative of how people of different genders, different sexualities, and different races are to be treated and regarded in our society. And from what I have collected, there is a dire and urgent change that needs to be made.
As the great Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”