There's this new movie called Magic Mike
that's coming out soon. It's about hot guys stripping. There's about as much nudity involved as you might expect. Here's the red band trailer
(most likely NSFW).
There are a lot of half-naked men dancing in sexually suggestive ways for female pleasure in that trailer. The camera definitely treats the dudes as objects to be stared at and appreciates how sculpted their pecs are and how oiled their skin is and how low their pants hang on their hips.
What is also interesting to me is how despite the fact that they are objects, they are still positioned as the subjects of the film. They're the people we follow through the trailer. They're the ones who get to talk to one another in a display of 'insiderness' while the women act as vehicles of exposition. Hell, even the synopsis of the movie emphasizes their agency: "Mike, an experienced stripper, takes a younger performer called The Kid under his wing and schools him in the arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money." Even with the large number of women on screen in this movie, I honestly doubt it will pass the Bechdel Test. Which isn't really a good analysis of how feminist/women-friendly a movie is, but it is really telling about whose stories are considered 'important' and relevant within the framework of the story. Especially in a movie where the camera is ostensibly following a female gaze.
Dude slash has come under fire for fetishizing and appropriating gay male sexuality, and while we all have our own ways of dealing with and handling that accusation, it's not an entirely unfair criticism. We do fetishize the hell out of our male characters and their bodies. One thing that I've always found entertaining is how overblown physical descriptions are in dude slash, where even people like Rodney McKay (sorry David Hewlett!) become this sort of pinacle of male beauty. We love their eyes, their hands, their noses, their legs, their hair, and we like to talk about these things in great detail. The popularity of Tumblr is partially due to the never-ending continuation of old school picspams, a chance to dissect and analyze and stare at these men (our men?) some more.
One interesting thing about particular fusions (particularly in the reel_* genre) is that all we're really doing is swapping out bodies into the stories. Sure, some of the details change. The rich sugar daddy runs a financial/internet startup/pharmaceutical company. The students go to MIT/Harvard/Columbia. The snarky brainiac teaches English/Art History/Computer Science/Physics/Engineering. But what we really want out of these fusions are the swapped bodies. Their blonde hair, their goatee, their brown eyes, their freckles, their narrow hips. Robert Downey Jr's face and James McAvoy's lips and Tom Hardy's biceps.
At the same time, when we write stories about them, they are the subjects of our stories. We give them agency. We give them internal lives and feelings and overly angsty backstories. (How many foster homes did he go through? How many friends has he lost to war/zombies/vampires?) We give them motivations and families and pets and kids and embarrassing exes. They are the subjects of our stories. We care about them as fictional (and maybe even less-than-fictional) people. We want them to be happy. We want them to be sad.
I don't know if this makes it okay. Or if it even wasn't okay to begin with.
Talking to merisunshine36
about this, we were trying to come up with a functional male equivalent of Emma Frost in XMFC. A side character meant to be looked at, meant to be stripped down and exposed for the camera and also a character with no history, no feelings, no important motivations, and very little impact on the story. We couldn't come up with anything off the top of our heads. I'm sure you can think of one. It took us two seconds to think of Emma. How long does it take you?
When talking about female objectification, privilege-denying dudes like to talk about feminists want all women in our media to be ugly, desexualized.
The usual counter-argument that I give is that we just need a wider range of female characters. We need them to be ugly, to be old, to be fat, to be short, to be stick thin, to be gawky. The way we think of women right now is so limited, so small.
But the women that get fetishized are women too, and we can't and shouldn't say that they don't have a place in our stories either.
Is there a way to balance these tensions out for female characters the way we do for male ones? Can we make them be beautiful lust objects and to be genuinely important subjects simultaneously? Or is the weight of all this historical oppression too much and it every instance of objectification just one more shitty thing to add to the pile?
I really wanted this to have a neat argument, a central thesis to tie all of this together, but I really don't. I don't know what any of it really adds up to, good or bad. All I can really say is that here's this one thing and here's this other thing, and I guess you'll have to come up with your own interpretation of it.
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