Nowadays, movies are one of the most consumed type of media, and it is an important factor in changing and challenging society’s beliefs, attitudes, and norms. While the cinema industry is crucial for educating younger generations, it is also known for distributing controversial topics like racism, romanticization of drugs or mental illnesses, and even sexualization. Worries start to rise as young men and boys are psychologically influenced by the revealing portrayal of women in films.
Sexualization is the process through which certain aspects of someone’s body are exaggerated, fetishized and perceived in a sexual light. In the movie industry, this concept started to take shape in the early 20th century, through provocative dances and revealing clothing, then continued with the Hollywood’s Golden Age (30’s-40’s), when women’s image was sexualized, objectified and glamorized. In the 50’s and 60’s, the trend carried on with sexualized symbols like Marilyn Monroe. Since the 70’s and 80’s, sexualization of female figures started to receive more and more criticism, however the popular culture still oversexualized characters, especially in action and comedy movies. The 90’s and 00’s were marked not only by sexualization and male gaze, but also by an increase in violence and rape/sexual assault scenes towards women. Nowadays, actresses like Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie started to express their discontent with the unnecessary oversexualization of female characters.
Characters like Tinkerbell, Lola Bunny, LeeLoo, Princess Leia have been unnecessarily portrayed in sexy ways in movies, and this, indeed, led to psychological and behavioral changes in young men. This shift includes objectification of women, having unrealistic beauty standards towards women’s bodies, normalizing harassment, criticizing natural features like stretch marks, body hair. The list continues with stereotypes and double standards, fetishization and inappropriate jokes towards women’s bodies.
For more insights on the topic of psychological impacts the sexualization of women in cinema has on boys and young men, an interview with the Moldavian psychologist and psychoanalyst, Tatiana Buyanina, was conducted.