Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thoughts on the NYFA's Infographic

Since the graphic is so unwieldy, I thought I'd better break this into two posts.

Quick thoughts: what we see revealed by this infographic is an industry that sells a very rigid, narrowly defined ideal of femininity to both women and men. Although half of audiences are female, the industry is dominated both financially and in terms of physical presence by men. This means that what we see on our movie screens-- the sexually postured, youthful, largely silent and subservient female explained in the first section of the infographic-- is a construct designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator being sold by what is largely a group of amoral, godless, and money-hungry males (I'm making assumptions here, but given the material the film industry routinely pumps out, I think they're pretty likely to be true.)

There are two points of consideration I'd like to draw from this. One is how we as Christians evaluate the films we watch-- and the ones we choose not to. It is easy, for example, to decide a movie isn't appropriate because "there's too much nudity" or "the actresses are all dressed immodestly". However, I think it is very important that we move beyond just "that isn't decent/modest" to "that isn't fair or honouring." There is a very real and present pressure on actresses to be sexy and to act sexually and our critique needs to incorporate an understanding of how sexualised female characters in the majority of our narratives contribute to rape, sexual harassment, and the sexual entitlement claimed by so many men of our culture. Are we going into the conversation with our sons beyond just telling them it's not appropriate for them to look at women's bodies in those contexts, to talk about ways in which this harms the actual women in the world around them, such situations as one where a couple of schoolboys can rape a young woman while all their male classmates look on and not one intervenes or goes for the authorities? Simply turning off the film without having these types of conversations effectively condemns the immodestly dressed actress without also explaining that a portion of the blame-- perhaps the lion's share-- lies with those who provide the funding, advertising, and influence to make that a criteria for an actress's success: the largely male portion of the industry.*

The second point I want to think about is something I mentioned in this recent post, about how the bulk of pop culture is radically sidelining, limiting, and tightly defining femininity rather than blurring the lines between the two genders. Pop culture creates a caricature of womanhood in which a beautiful, youthful physical appearance is paramount, the ability to attract a romantic/sexual partner is more important than any true talents, and articulateness, intelligence, and character are of minimal significance. On the other side, a small subsection of our culture pushes against this by arguing all gender differences are social constructs and should be done away with altogether. Surely the church should claim the middle ground, passionately defending the beauty of binary gender as created and called 'good' by God, while at the same time standing firmly against any implied or outright attitudes that mark one gender as superior!**

*Another portion of the blame lies with the men who act upon the ideas about women portrayed in mainstream media, and that's another important conversation to have with our sons, but that's for another blog post, I think.
**And in our culture, the gender that tends to be portrayed as 'inferior' is women, which is why I write the blog posts I write. 

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