Progress in Hollywood has historically moved the same way as progress anywhere: it goes one step forward, two steps back. 2017 was different, though, and an increased demand for diversity both in front of and behind the screen resulted in plenty of
progressive moments in 2017 movies. These scenes and quotes all brought new things to the screen, be it a unique point of view or a previously taboo experience. Granted, there are still a lot of things we have yet to see on screen, but 2017 definitely made strides in opening up Hollywood to more stories and more progressive points of view.
Progressive moments in film here means scenes or plot points that audiences either haven't seen before or that approach a familiar or taboo topic in a new way. For example, the existence of a gay love story at the center of
Call Me By Your Name, for example, isn't exactly new to the screen, but it's how the film depicts the love story that makes it so progressive. Furthermore, the most important criteria in determining whether or not a movie moment is progressive is authenticity. Hollywood is, by definition, fake. Even movies based on true events have elements of fiction, and sometimes it can be difficult for audiences to connect to what they know isn't real. Each of these progressive moments in 2017 movies have an honesty to them that audiences embraced and identified with. And it's only through that honesty that these films were able to get their progressive messages out.
The Sunken Place — 'Get Out'
There are many progressive moments in
Get Out, Jordan Peele's stunning directorial debut that created a brand new genre of the socially conscious thriller, but The Sunken Place sequence is easily the most progressive of the film. Not only is the scene beautiful, but it manages to depict the disenfranchisement and erasure of black Americans in a country that is mostly ruled by white people. It's a scene that was immediately adopted into pop culture and, hopefully, helped inspire some serious discussions about race for viewers at home. Click here to watch.
Grapefruiting — 'Girls Trip'
Female sexuality has increasingly been celebrated on screen in recent years (thanks
Sex & The City!) but there's something about the grapefruiting tutorial scene in Girls Trip that makes it stand above the rest. Tiffany Haddish's enthusiastic performance is the perfect way to normalize a slightly unorthodox sexual act on screen. It's one thing to be sex positive in a PG-13 way, it's quite another to get into the nitty gritty. Click here to watch.
9/11 Lunch — 'The Big Sick'
The painfully hilarious 9/11 scene in
The Big Sick is progressive for two reasons. First, it does what some might have thought impossible: it makes an entertaining and smart joke out of a discussion about 9/11. Secondly, and most importantly, it exposes the prejudice fostered by ignorance that even the most well-meaning person can be guilty of. When Terry, a white man, brings up 9/11 to Kumail, a Pakistani man, he's not doing so out of malice, but it's still very awkward. Nice people can be slightly racist sometimes, and it's important for people to remember to think before they speak. Click here to watch.
No Man's Land — 'Wonder Woman'
Taking gender out of it, the No Man's Land scene in
Wonder Woman wouldn't be particularly progressive for a superhero movie. But, alas, we don't live in a post-gendered world, and seeing a female superhero embrace her power to do what hundreds of men have failed to do is just not something we've ever seen before on screen. The scene inspired audiences everywhere and earned a place in one of the most iconic scenes in superhero movie history. Click here to watch.
The Hospital — 'The Light Of The Moon'
The Light of the Moon takes a daring, unfiltered look at what it is to be a rape survivor — an experience not often focused on in film. The hospital scene takes place right after Bonnie's rape is raw and painful, giving an unflinching look at the strange procedural aftermath of sexual assault. Aside from a few short scenes on Law and Order: SVU, audiences are hard-pressed to find authentic depictions of the medical implications of rape. Click here to watch.
"Translations Are Sacred" — 'Okja'
Okja is progressive in many ways: it's got a super diverse cast and a very serious animal rights message. But it is most progressive in how it tackles language. The film is entirely bilingual (a rarity in Hollywood), with characters speaking in both English and Korean, and language is a key element in the film. Moreover, the subtitles and translations in the film are also slightly manipulated, creating inside jokes for those English and Korean speakers and demonstrating the fragile nature of language.
Morning Routine — 'The Shape Of Water'
Every morning, Elisa wakes up and completes her morning routine: she turns off her alarm clock, sets eggs to boil on the stove, and then hops into the bathroom for a quick bath and some masturbation. Female masturbation is rarely ever discussed let alone depicted on screen, and the fact that
The Shape of Water incorporates it into its main character's morning routine is significant. It helps lift the taboo on female sexuality in a major way. Click here to watch.
Family Life — 'Professor Marston And The Wonder Women'
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women does feature a pretty unique threesome scene (and relationship), but its the more mundane family scenes that are truly progressive. It's one thing for a film to show the scandalous or sexy sides of polyamory, it's another to show how a relationship between one man and two women works practically in everyday life. Click here to watch.
The Peach — 'Call Me By Your Name'
Masturbation? Check. Taboo sexualization of a fruit? Check. Beautiful scene of self discovery? Double check. The infamous peach scene in
Call Me By Your Name might sound like it harkens back to the immortal American Pie, but instead of playing sexual discovery for laughs, the film plays it as a deeply emotional and pivotal moment. Click here to watch.
The Shape of Water, Lady Bird also features a tub masturbation scene. It's different from The Shape of Water in that it's not necessarily depicted as a part of Lady Bird's everyday routine, and it's slightly more taboo due to Lady Bird's high school age (something an audience might conflate with innocence). It's a short scene, not particularly scandalous by any means, but it's progressive in that it gives room for a young teenage girl to be unashamed in her sexual discovery — a luxury traditionally only given to men. Click here to watch.
Replacing Kevin Spacey — 'All The Money In The World'
Director Ridley Scott's immediate decision to fire Kevin Spacey from his film
All the Money in the World and re-shoot all of his scenes with Christopher Plummer is astounding, and not just because he managed to finish it in time for a Christmas release. No, the entire thing is progressive because it hints at a new policy of zero tolerance in Hollywood for sexual assault and harassment. (It could also be argued that it is further proof that Hollywood will only do what's right when money is on the line, but let's take a positive view.) Click here to watch.
Movies have taken many progressive steps in 2017. One can only hope that 2018 doesn't signal a step back, but a continued forward momentum — a blockbuster love story between two women, say, would be a good place to start.