All we need to look is how many porn stars and glamour models have gone on to make a career “acting” in Hollywood films to see that a womans sex appeal can often be confused with talent. There’s the infamous porn star Marilyn Chambers, who was one of porn’s biggest stars and starred in the first pornographic film to feature interracial sex, making her infamous. Later on in her life she went on to act in lots if independent films, most famously “Rabid” by David Cronenberg. Paris Hilton went from heiress, to international celebrity when two of her home made sex tapes were leaked on the internet. From this, she established a Hollywood career, featuring in films such as “House of Wax”. Traci Lords, from the age of fifteen starred in pornographic movies and featured in Penthouse magazine until she was arrested at the age of eighteen for posing as an elder. After this however, with the help of her new found celebrity status, Lords starred in many Hollywood films such as “Blade” and “Cry Baby”. She has also featured in many TV shows like “Will and Grace” and “Roseanne”. Similar examples involving men are almost unheard of. Whilst male sexuality is often exploited as a marketing tool, with part of Matthew Mcconaughey’s contract to any film being that he must feature in at least one scene topless, it seems that creating a celebrity status based on how much of you everybody has seen is reserved for women. The recent international obsession with Robert Pattinson in “Twilight” goes to prove the power that male sex appeal can have over women and men, young and old alike. In its first week, “Twilight” broke box office records, in conjunction with Pattinsons celebrity status skyrocketing above any other character in the film (despite the fact that he is not the main character). Both readers of People magazine and Glamour magazine voted Pattinson the “sexiest man alive” in 2009, despite the fact he was a new entry to the polls in both cases. Again this goes to prove the fertility of the market for selling sex; however, interestingly the “Twilight” films feature no sex scenes whatsoever, and with Pattinsons “reserved” character being one of the most noticeable themes in the movie. Apart from one kiss, during which Pattinsons character literally flys off of his woman of choice shouting “NO!” the closest we get towards intercourse is Pattinson sniffing co-star Kirstin Stewarts neck and exclaiming that “it smells like lavender” . The writer of the “Twilight” saga, Stephanie Mayer is a Mormon and uses the books to promote such ideas of restraining our sexual and hedonistic desires. She says “It doesn't matter where you're stuck in life or what you think you have to do; you can always choose something else. There's always a different path.” Place this catalyst for rosy teenage dreams and dry humping to one of the UK’s biggest celebrities Katie Price or “Jordan”. Price built her career from an early age, posing nude on page three of tabloids and calendars. Years later however after five breast augmentations, a lip and nose job and propelling Barbie manufacturers into chaos with too many moulds, Price is now regarded as one of the UK’s most successful business women with clothing lines, book deals and perfume ranges, earning £20,000 per photoshoot in 2004. If you compare the means of achievement between Pattinson and Price, we are drawn to an alarming conclusion. That indeed, sex does sell, but women are far more profitable.
To really gain perspective on the relevance that gender roles (and stereotypes) play in entertainment, we need to merely look at films that do not contain “normal” gender structures. Films like Brokeback Mountain, a film that explores the sexual relationship of two gay cowboys, came to international notoriety by showing the most “detailed” portrayal of homosexual intercourse ever seen in a mainstream film. While the sex appeal of the two main actors (Jake Gylenhaal and Heath Ledger) is there, it undoubtedly intimidated most people who watched the movie for purely that reason by starving their desire for tits. And also while it is still positive that it at its time of release it ranked eighth in the highest grossing romantic dramas of all time, I cannot escape the feeling that rather than “normalising” non nuclear sexual structures, it merely talked about it at a point in time where people were ready to sympathise with the misfortune of the fictional couple. It helped when one of them was beaten to death by a gang of men with poles after he was “outed”. After all, would you really expect the world to become obsessed with the relationship of two male or two female vampires without initially being obsessed with the fact that they are homosexual? I doubt it, and movie/TV show makers know this and keep us in the comfort of predominantly nuclear families with problems and love lives.
In her book “Female chauvinist Pigs” , Ariel Levy talks about the term “Uncle tomming”, which is derived from Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin and is used to describe somebody “conforming to someone else’s – someone more powerful’s – distorted notion of what you represent”. The term could be used until any one person is blue in the face when it comes to describing movies, TV shows or popular entertainment in general. Such things have stuck to the nuclear trends since the establishment of Hollywood and have continued to popularly use them today, with the same nuclear characters. Divorce and black people have crept into the glitz and glamour somewhere along the line to make things slightly more representative however we are presented with a nuclear family, a strong, straight man and a busty, ditzy female 90% of the time. Women and men “tom” in front of the camera, we lap it up and “tom” all the way home and into the future. . And while we should take note of how time changes social attitudes and occasionally, entertainment, we should probably spend more time constructing our own identity, because you are more likely to find that the radical character brought to you on the screen are extremely reactionary bravado’s , which are merely making a comment on the stereotype that they just surpassed.