Questions raised on new representations of sexuality in media

By Marilyn MacLaren, Assistant Buzz Editor

With the recent announcement of season three of “Euphoria,” it has become increasingly apparent in Hollywood that the relationship with sexuality in film has changed. Films such as “Blonde,” “365 Days” and “Don’t Worry Darling” contain explicit sexual content that raises the question of any relevance these scenes have to the plot, character development or the effect on the audience. 

These facts also brings to light the impact these representations have on younger generations, queer people and people of various gender identities outside of this very narrow, embellished image of sexuality.

“Blonde,” the recently released biopic from Netflix has received many negative reviews due to its hypersexualization of Marilyn Monroe as a character within a false narrative. The film gives a sensationalized account of Monroe and her traumatic past, with Ana de Armas completely transforming herself to fulfill the role aesthetically. 

The film is based on the fictional novel of the same name and the marketing through trailers and interviews has led audiences to believe that many elements are true, especially graphic scenes depicting sexual assault. The misleading legitimacy of “Blonde” forms from the artistic liberties taken by the film, which were felt necessary to illustrating Monroe’s life.

Viewers may take these scenes at face value, further reducing Monroe to nothing more than the sex symbol — a view the film clumsily tried to change through harmful and damaging inaccuracies. Here Monroe becomes a victim of her sexuality, taking away from her becoming a fully faceted character within the context of the film.

Jason Krause, senior in Media, had similar thoughts on Monroe’s representation. 

“It presents Marilyn Monroe through the consequences of her public sexualization, how her over sexualization in the media made her into this object,” Krause said. 

This oversexualization of characters and people therefore affects our own popular culture in media.

“We get to see the consequences of a culture which oversexualizes. We get to see the human underneath the gauze of sexuality, so we can begin to build empathy beyond the superficial arousal of media sexualizing,” he said. 

Aashi Prajapati, junior in LAS, also addressed the damaging portrayals of various types of sexuality, particularly for LGBTQ+ characters and the fetishization of lesbian couples. 

“Nowadays there’s this kind of countering against the way porn has heavily fetishized lesbians and lesbian sex. Now there is this depiction of lesbians without any sexual desire,” Prajapati said.

There’s a fine line between porn and plot when it comes to writing LGBTQ+ characters within a culture that takes advantage of this sexuality in demeaning ways. 

“It gives the impression that to have that kind of sexual desire is somehow wrong,” she said.

With “Euphoria,” the new season is rumored to be released as early as 2023, with oversexualized representations of characters as seen in previous seasons likely to continue. The season two finale ended with many possibilities for this, specifically for the development of Cassie Howard and her both physically and sexually abusive relationship with Nate Jacobs.

Dr. Jenny Oyallon-Koloski, associate professor in Media, highlighted the importance of filming these types of scenes with care given to both the actors and the overall story. 

“An important addition to the industry are intimacy directors, who ensure that everyone on set is consensually engaging in the process of filming simulated sexual acts or intimacy-related content,” she said. 

According to The Independent, actress Sydney Sweeney, who plays Cassie on “Euphoria,” expressed how she was able to feel comfortable filming compromising scenes for herself and for the development of her character. Having open communication with the show’s creator Sam Levinson, as well as with the intimacy coordinators on set, Sweeney was able to set boundaries to protect herself and her character. 

“I think we’re all just trying to figure our sexuality out,” Krause said.

He also expressed a pressing concern over how these representations might affect young people as a whole. 

“That’s not helped when we have the media constantly presenting oversexualized characters to us, because often, sexuality is more nuanced than an extreme representation,” he said.

 

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