One of the annoying things about the entertainment industry right now is that there's a sneaky little layer of sexism under a lot of it that can slip by us if we aren't paying attention. Take, for example, this list of movies that are surprisingly sexist. I made the list myself, and a lot of the movies I put on it are ones that I really enjoyed, and, in many cases, didn't realize were problematic toward women before I started delving a little deeper and using my noodle. So much of the work that's out there can feel like it's inherently slanted against women — I mean, don't even get me started on how few films pass the Bechdel Test — that it's largely stopped registering when I watch something new. And that's not great! In fact, it's embarrassing and bad, and I want to put a stop to it.
And the way I want to do that is by taking a cold hard look at the elements of these films that should be raising some feminist red flags for us. It doesn't mean the movies themselves are bad, not at all. And it certainly doesn't mean that the sexism was intentional, not at all. It just means that we have to pay a little more attention instead of absorbing these lessons without questioning them, because many times its the subtle sort of sexism that we wouldn't bat an eyelash at that does the most damage down the line. So, without further ado, here they are: 11 movies that are surprisingly sexist, no matter how much you enjoyed them.
Surely, I'm not the first person to give you a heads up about this one. Aurelia, who learns English and then changes nothing about her life, just in case Jamie might come back to propose? Natalie, who gets briefly written off by the Prime Minister for getting fondled —seemingly against her will — by the President? The women of Michigan, who are so delighted by Colin's accent that they have an impromptu orgy with him hours after meeting? I could go on. (And many people have.)
Elizabeth Swann spends the entire franchise kicking ass and taking names, being an independent woman who can fend for herself — only to find herself in the scene after the credits of At World's End as a stay-at-home mom who gets to see her Flying Dutchman-bound husband once every 10 years. And, according to the DVD commentary, that's only if she's faithful. Oh, OK.
3. Pretty Woman
Vivian's personality is exactly the same throughout, but repeatedly, she is only treated with respect by other characters once she presents herself outwardly in a more "ladylike" manner. This includes the manager of the hotel, the women in the shops, Edward, obviously, and even Vivian herself. Once she's seen the other side of life, she can't be happy with her own, so it's lucky that Edward comes to save her from it, isn't it?
Wait, do you mean to tell me that in real life, lesbians don't just magically turn straight because the miraculous power of Ben Affleck's penis finally knocks some sense into them? I thought all gay women were just waiting for the right man to come along to prove their sexual orientation wrong. Hollywood, you liar.
If Anne Hathaway's character is that high up in NASA, it's probably that she's good at her job, right? And, when people are good at their job, they don't usually throw it all away — and by "all" I mean "the fate of the entire world" — just because they have a crush on a coworker, right? Unless they're a a woman in a Christopher Nolan movie, apparently.
Laney Boggs is supposed to be all grateful to Zack for making her popular, when really he just forced her to change her personality, and, then, as a reward, stopped being such a jerk to her all the time, which then encouraged other people to do the same. And who can forget the infamous moment at the end, in which Paul Walker's character was deaf in one ear from the air horn that Laney had to blow in it to avoid getting assaulted?
Once again, here's a lady who's presumably good at her job, but treated like she's a withholding ice queen because of it, when men who are distinctly not good at their jobs don't get even close to the same treatment. And don't even get me started on the running in heels thing.
Even though Danny and Sandy apparently had a perfectly lovely relationship before school started, if she wants to prove she's really deserving of his attention again, all she has to do is change every single thing about herself, from her appearance to her attitude, and take up smoking.
A man assigns a female voice to his operating system, which is designed to discover his wants and needs and likes and dislikes while presenting none of her own, and he falls in love with her and feels betrayed when she doesn't feel the same way forever? How original. As it's been pointed out, the movie was really more about "him" than "her," as pretty much the first words out of her mouth were "how can I help you?"
The fun thing about this one is that it's kind of intentionally sexist — we see the relationship from Tom's viewpoint, and he doesn't understand Summer or her deal, so he thinks she's being cruel to him when, in reality, Summer was never anything but crystal clear about her feelings on relationships and love. In fact, she is the one to enforce the distance when Tom starts getting hurt. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Summer isn't a fleshed-out character, but, again, that's because we're looking out through Tom's eyes, and he doesn't actually love Summer; he loves the idea of summer. Sadly, so many viewers missed the point that this movie bears including on this list, not because of its sexism, but because the point it was making with its sexism was completely lost.
See what I mean? Sexism is lurking everywhere, even in beloved movies. Gotta go wash this bad taste out of my mouth with some Jessica Jones or Star Wars: The Force Awakens real quick.
Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures