David and I have recently been watching Cinema Sins on YouTube and really enjoying it. It does a pretty good job of pointing out some pretty obvious inconsistencies and plot holes. Some of the comments are absolutely hilarious, but recently I have noticed something that kind of irks me. One of the repeated comments that he has made is “scene does not contain a lap dance”. It is not used every time and I have not done a specific study around when it does appear. I just know that I have heard it repeated in at least a few of the Cinema Sins commentaries.
Now I know it is a joke and I really do hate getting in to arguments about what is or is not funny. I think the problem I have is the pervasiveness of the joke in his commentary. The first time I heard it I laughed, I will admit it. Now when I am watching them, the joke is getting a little old. I think the other part of my problem is the fact that there does not seem to be a similar comment about the men. I feel like when you are fair about your riffing I can forgive more offensive comments because you are potentially offending everyone. It could be making a commentary on the larger issue of female in the media, but I am not sure.
The Problem With the Joke
The problem with the joke in general is it continues the stereotype that women in films are just there as sexy background and not actual characters. By saying that the sin of the scene in a film is that it does not contain a lap dance means that any time that a woman is represented as something more than a sex symbol that is considered bad. Saying something is a sin means that it is not good, and is not something to be repeated. I know it is just a joke, but a the same time when it is repeated over and over again it just pounds in the point that women are not important.
Calling Out a Problem?
So another way to look at this is that the joke is the fact that women are not represented well in films. I feel like this is a stretch of an explanation, but I can also kind of see the point. By calling it out as a sin when it really isn’t a sin your making fun of the fact that women are not represented well in films. Particularly when you are using it in scenes where women end up scantily clad for instance, by calling out the fact that the woman is half naked and the man is not. In that case are you calling out the unfair nature of the scene by saying there wasn’t a lap dance because that is where it seems to be heading. Also, potentially making fun of the people who think that should be true. It is an interesting thought of calling out what some might think as a sin of a movie if you do not agree with it. At the same time are you just perpetuating the idea that you might actually disagree with.
Women in Film
There are repeated attempts to call out the treatment of women in movies. The fact that they are often treated as secondary characters and only gain importance due to there interactions with men. There is a whole series looking at female characters and how they interact with other characters in the movie. The Bechdel Test is a very simplistic look at female representation movie and all it is looking at is female interactions in the movie. Let’s not forget time on screen, depth of character, purpose, etc. There are multitudes of discussion about the lack of representation of women in media. Shouldn’t the sin be when a woman is reduced down to a thing to look at instead of person to be interacted with?
I can’t tell what is going on inside the creator of Cinema Sins head, so I can’t say what he is thinking. At the same time it is good to question things instead of just assuming it is the status quo. I just think it is problematic when we jump to condemning instead of being open to reinterpretation.