Hollywood love stories promote sexism

Michael Colton, Entertainment Columnist

Dumb love.

Romance and film have gone together for decades. From Gone With the Wind to The Notebook, it seems as if every major film of the last century has had some sort of romantic subplot. This works in some films, however, in a vast majority of them, it does not. Rather, it weakens the plot and perpetuates Hollywood’s misogyny.

It is no secret that sex sells. We see evidence of that in nearly every advertisement, tv show or movie that we watch. It also is no secret that Hollywood directors have a tendency to shoehorn sex into their work in any way that they can, both to add ‘edge’ to scripts and to attract viewers. To be fair, it does both of those things. The problem is that unnecessary romance also detracts from the central plotline of a story.

Take The Dark Knight Rises for example: as a movie chock full of explosions, fight scenes and Batman, it was destined to be a success. Those things, coupled with the fact that Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway, added a new layer of action and deceit to the movie that made for a dramatic conclusion to an already beloved franchise. How could it possibly be messed up?

Apparently, the answer to that is easy: by forcing unnecessary romantic tension into the plot. Of course Batman and Catwoman had to fall in love, right? Unfortunately, many in Hollywood thought that to be true, as they went on to add a grossly underdeveloped narrative of love between the two right at the end of the film. Did the creators of the movie really expect that to help their ratings? Did they think that Batman and Catwoman weren’t cool enough? Whatever their reasoning, the result is clear; the film lost a great deal of the qualities that made it great in the first place, all due to a vague, unnecessary love story.

This is all too common of a narrative in Hollywood–otherwise fantastic movies losing their compelling plots because producers force sex onto their viewers. Forbes calls this phenomenon the ‘the token romance’, or a forced romantic plot, written in to attract a wide range of viewers.

It is true that love is something that everyone can relate to, but that doesn’t mean that it must be shown in every piece of media that we indulge. Making love ever-present makes for immature stories and, not surprisingly, continues the long trend of misogyny in films.

While the ‘token romance’ can apply to films targeted towards women, it is much more evident in those aimed at men. In these movies, female side characters are given what the men running Hollywood see as an ‘appealing’ plotline. That being: coming onto the screen, saying a few lines and then having sex with the male protagonist shortly thereafter. See any of the James Bond films for reference.

According to a study by the University of Southern California in regards to over 500 films, out of all female characters who spoke on screen, 31.6% of them were shown wearing “sexy” clothing. These include side characters and characters who are integral to the plot for reasons other than love. Examples include the above mentioned Catwoman fiasco, Princess Leia in any Star Wars movie and Black Widow in the Avengers films.

The sexualization and objectification of female characters in movies has created a distinct mold for the female actress that needs to be broken. If film is truly a universal medium of expression, it should not be controlled by the sexist old men of Hollywood, and it should not only appeal to the sexist men of the world. It is imperative to the goals of gender equity that all genders be represented in an honest, non-objectifying way on screen. Doing so will not only erase some of the misogyny that Hollywood has long been employing, but it will make mainstream film something to be enjoyed by all, a way for important messages to be relayed to the audience, outside of the realm sexual activity.