Three women are hanging onto a helicopter that’s flying towards a beach house, ready to fire a heat-seeking missile. The women appear to be in their mid-twenties, their hair is gracefully blowing in the wind, and they’re maneuvering themselves around the helicopter in skin-tight pants, heeled leather boots, and red lipstick. They’re on a mission to protect their boss, as well as mankind. Earlier they were dancing in lederhosen and driving a speed boat in gold bikinis. No, this is not the plot of a 1970s pornographic movie. This is a film about Charlie’s Angels, the sexy, unflawed trio that stops at nothing to bring down the bad guy. A young, action-enthralled audience may enjoy this kind of sexualized plot. The question is, however, not what the 13-year-old kids in the movie theater think, while they’re sipping on their Cherry Coke and popping Buncha Crunch in their mouths, but rather how would parents interpret this portrayal of women?
In order to give some insight as to what some parents think about their children being exposed to movies such as Charlie’s Angels, I will take the opportunity to use my own experiences and my parents’ points of view. I was about 10-years-old when I went to the movie theater with my sister and my dad to see Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle. My sister wanted to see the movie, I tagged along with her, and we needed a parent to take us. My mom didn’t seem to care much about the film, but she had no objections about her daughters going to see it. The movie started off as a stereotypical Hollywood film; a lot of green-screen magic, unrealistic disguises, and fast-paced getaways. The worst parts, to me, were the scenes when the Angels had to distract their male targets with sexy dances and flashy costumes. I wasn’t offended or disgusted by these scenes; I was uncomfortable because my dad was right next to me. Imagine going to a burlesque show with your dad.
It seems that a lot of women in the media believe these portrayals of women to be dangerous to younger girls. They highly believe that these sexualized women, or “fighting fuck toys” (coined by Occidental College assistant professor Caroline Heldman), are going to be looked up to, and viewed as powerful role models. However, as a 10-year-old girl at the time of viewing Full Throttle, and as a 19-year-old at the time of watching to the first Charlie’s Angels, I declare that I don’t regard the Angels as my role models. Sure, they may fight bad guys, show their love for Charlie, know how to take a punch without sweating off make-up, and expose men who will drool for a leather-clad piece of ass, but they have not impacted me enough to look up to them. Ever since I started going to the movie theater, I was well aware of the fact that nothing on screen is accurate to reality. I can say the same for my 21-year-old sister, who enjoys a wide range of movies (including fighting fuck toy films from time to time) but decides to focus more on getting her college degree. As for my dad, he didn’t think much of the movie, but he didn’t try to talk us out of wanting to see it. He has often told us that he wants us to be able to speak and think for ourselves, and that we shouldn’t need a certain image to mold our way of behaving.
Another film I would like to briefly discuss is Miss Representation, from which I first heard the term “fighting fuck toy.” Many film critics and feminists have expressed praise and admiration after the recent film’s release. I, on the other hand, have an objection to one of the main points. Jennifer Newsom focuses around the quote “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Let’s just agree with this for the sake of analysis. “I can’t be what I can’t see.” If I decide right now that this is the mantra by which I choose to live, then I want to only look up to the people who exactly fit my image of success. I see women politicians, but wait, it’s not my own dream to go into politics. Well, I also see fighting fuck toys on screen. Again, not exactly my own dream come true (plus I don’t look like those women, and I probably won’t grow up looking like Cameron Diaz). I don’t see women in the media who are exactly like the way I imagine myself in the future. So, I guess I can’t be what I want? Is my own imagination not powerful enough to decide how successful I will be? Is my only option to seek out another woman who will show me her secrets to success, like monkey see, monkey do? The film stresses that women need role models. The people in the film talk about young girls as though they are so malleable and naive that they are doomed from the moment they come into this world as females. Sure, some of the people in Miss Representation are parents, but I don’t feel like they instill a lot of trust in their children’s imaginations.
Sure, a female fighting fuck toy is pretty popular in the media. It’s hard to miss her over-sized breasts and sculpted hardbody. Going off of what I have learned from my parents, I decide for myself how I will behave, and how I will view women in the media. I have seen and heard the way a lot of people tend to dismiss certain movies, just because they have the potential to be offensive, or seeming to send the “wrong” message to girls. But a person shouldn’t watch a movie about a fuck toy and expect it to be real. They should instead be aware that there will probably be a lot of stereotypes throughout the film, and that women outside Hollywood don’t perform that way. I mean, it seems quite unrealistic to be inspired by a woman while she’s straddling a missile that’s about to blow up.