In the film, Miss Representation, they discuss the different ways in which women are misrepresented in the media today. The representation we will be focusing on is “the fighting fuck toy” where movies make female protagonists into action heroes but have them super sexualized. The Hollywood film, Charlie’s Angel, does a great job in making the main female characters as heroes and protagonists but makes sure the girls are seen as sexual objects.
The opening scene of each of the three angels is very provocative. Cameron Diaz’s character, Natalie, enters the movie with a skimpy, flesh-colored bikini and almost looks like she is naked. Lucy Liu’s character, Alex, takes off her helmet and whips her hair while the camera captures it in slow motion. Drew Barrymore’s character, Dylan, is seen lying naked on a bed while the camera slowly rides up her body. Throughout the entire movie, the camera does a lot of slow motion shots and zooms in on certain body parts. This technique forces the audience to view the female heroes as sexual objects.
The costuming of the female characters is highly sexual as well. The angels are seen with very low-cut tops or tight-fitting outfits throughout the entire movie. In the scenes that require the angels to retrieve information from men, the angels are always using their sexuality to seduce them. The movie sends the message that the only power of a woman is her sexuality. You can see this clearly near the end of the movie when Dylan is tied up to a chair. She spreads her legs open and grabs the attention of the men who are trying to kill her. They all stop and listen as she controls them with her sexuality.
The film also heavily focuses on fetishism. There are several scenes of the bad guy ripping off pieces of women’s hair and sniffing it in a very creepy manner. There are also many scenes of close-up body shots and slow motion shots of men looking at the women…desiring them. By zooming into specific parts of the female body, it displaces the sexual desire from the person to an object.
The movie really reinforces the gendered ways of seeing. As John Berger puts it, “Men dream of women. Women dream of themselves being dreamt of…” In the movie, Natalie dreams about being on stage where she is the spectacle and she is being looked at and desired by the men around her. Berger also states, “From early childhood, a woman is taught to survey herself continually. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and particularly how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.” We can see this during the last scene of the film where the angels are about to enter a house and see their commander, Charlie. Right before they walk in, the girls are looking nervous and Dylan asks, “Do I look okay?” as they quickly fix themselves up. The female characters are seen worrying over their physical appearance and making sure they are presentable for Charlie.
Female action heroes in movies may be somewhat refreshing by having women in roles that are traditionally reserved for men. These movies make it seem like the women are diegetic on screen by placing them as the protagonists and having them fight crime. However, we can still see how the films blatantly produce the women as iconic on screen by presenting them as objects of beauty. Charlie’s Angels gives the sense of girl power, but really, they are all just fighting fuck toys catering to the fantasies of men.
By Sue Lee