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Films semiotic analysis Essay

In every day life we are surrounded with imaginative constructs about gender: magazines, billboards, books, games, TV. They teach us what is natural every day. Which tells us how men and women differ in so many different ways. Creating myths like “ You are not normal, if you won’t find anyone”, “You can’t be good without man”, many variations of “Beauty myths”.

This essay will focus first on the film The Ugly Truth (Luketic, 2009) arguing about gender issues, furthermore the films The Princess Diaries (Marshall, 2001) and Legally Blond (Luketic, 2001) will be analyzed to support the argument in which the heroines portrayed as pathetic beings, not able to do anything without men, even they work on high positions in law, on television and being Princess. Essay will use Gender perspective and will answer questions like what is to be an woman and what is to be an man.

The Ugly Truth film (Luketic, 2009) offers us whole range of different myth and stereotypes. The movie indicates huge difference between main hero-Mike and heroine-Abby. They are presented as a black and white. Abby – not confident, truly believe in love, excited about everything, naïve. Mike –very confident, doesn’t believe in relationship, very skeptic, and extremely arrogant, pretty straight forward. “Many aspects of masculinity myths are concerned with the assertion of toughness, stoicism, courage, and the distinguishing of this form a ‘soft’ feminity that belongs to woman”(Horrocks, 1995, p. 18) (Paraphrase) Mike is very successful, gets promoted and changes jobs few times through the movie.

Whereas Abby stays at the same job at all the time. Even though she has a high position, her boss is a man. The entire film supports the idea of how important his role is and how Abby’s role is insignificant. Firstly He comments: “You are here to make sure I am ok”. Secondly at the senior management meeting, she tries to introduce her boyfriend. Meanwhile the men are completely oblivious to her and continue to talk about more important things like they support Mike for bringing two girlfriends at the dinner.

Another example is there are two newscasters wife and husband, main hero claims that wife emasculating the husband by earning more money. “In relation to masculinity, it might lead us to expect that the pervasive images of men would be dominance, arrogance, and power.”( Dunlap & Johnson, 2013, p. 4)(Paraphrase)

One of the popular myths is “ You are not normal, if you won’t find anyone”. These myth show the density of messages, many of them are inconsistent, that face women about work and relationships. Hersey claims that Females ambitions at work presented in films are just as important as relationships (2007). She exemplify: “In Legally Blond, sorority girl Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) enrolls in Harvard Law School to win back her boyfriend, only to discover that she would rather be a lawyer than a society wife.

“(Hersey, 2007) But at the end of the film she is dating another lawyer and gets engaged to him. Lets parallel it to The Ugly Truth (Luketic, 2009). The heroine has a very important job, she is a producer, but there is a scene where she waits for her boyfriend to go on a date but then her boss shows up saying they have a very important meeting. Abby answers: ”I can’t, I have a date with Collin”. She puts relationships as her priority. However Kosut says that women are portrayed as desperate for romance. (2012, p.111) Furthermore according to Kosut, women intend to do anything to be in a relationship, because love is represented as the greatest delineation of success. (2012, p.111).

Going back to Legally Blond (Luketic, 2001), Elle Wood changes her whole life to get her boyfriend back. Mia chooses to go to the beach with a guy, leaving her friends when they need her help, because love is more important.

These films reinforcing the ideology that women have to find a partner otherwise you are abnormal. ” Implicit in third myth is that each woman should strive to become the chosen one; and if she does not achieve this, she is considered in some way inherently deficient.” (Worell, 2001, p.190) Romantic comedies genre pushes the ideology of finding someone, Fairytale myth of the couple ending up together and of course final kiss reapets again and again: The Ugly truth (Luketic, 2009), The Princess Diaries (Marshall, 2001), Brigit Jones’s Diary (Maguire, 2001), Pretty Woman (Marshall, 1990), Life As We Know It (Berlanti, 2010). This list can go on and on.

There is no doubt that to find someone, you need to be good-looking. It is bringing up the Beauty myths, which tells us we are never perfect. Hersey has a different opinion; she thinks that the makeover moment in the films helps heroines to find their true identities rather than an effort to attract men. (2007).

However Mia in The Princess Diaries (Marshall, 2001) wants to be attracted by Josh, in The Ugly Truth (Luketic, 2009) Abby agrees
to make over just to get attracted by Collin. In the Pretty Women (Marshall, 1990), heroine gets makeover to be socially accepted. Signifiers of the Beauty myth: from the beginning of the films like Pretty Woman (Marshall, 1990), The Ugly Truth (Luketic, 2009), The Princess Diaries (Marshall, 2001), heroines are beautiful but social constructions tells us it would be never enough.

Interesting fact is that all makeovers ruled by males. “Hollywood romantic dramas reinforce the ideology that woman entirely dependent on their male lovers.” (Gill, 2007, p. 79)(Leave quote as is) In the film The Ugly Truth (Luketic, 2009) Abby is shown as ‘a looser’, because she can’t find a boyfriend, she ruins everything on each date she goes. That’s why there is Mike fearless, confident male, who knows everything about relationships helps Abby to get her a boyfriend.

But, it is also interesting to note that these women were also portrayed as dependent “submissive, less intelligent, and were usually cast in the role of homemakers” (Lovdal, 1989, p. 722) (Paraphrase) These women also managed to attend to the cooking, cleaning, house keeping, and other needs of their children and husbands…these tasks were perfomed while remaining immaculately attired, usually and most often in a dress, hells, and perfect make-up. (Toth & Aldoory, 2001, p. 224) (Paraphrase)

For instance Abby is the main character in The Ugly truth (Luketic, 2009), waiting for her boyfriend in the most sexiest outfit, when boyfriend shows up, asking what was she doing, her answer is: “Doing the dishes” “All the beauty myths promote the idea that beauty is the most vital aspect of woman’s being. (Worell, 2001, p.190) Men will do important jobs, will help you with everything. All you have to do is to be beautiful. All gender myths are firmly connected to each other and one myth is the continuation of another one.

A part of beauty myth is presentation of women as sexual objects. Again Hersey doesn’t agree with this “Yvonne Tasker argues that working women in the “New Hollywood” are often linked to sexual availability and prostitution, but these heroines’ work in journalism, international diplomacy, criminal justice and law does not make them more sexually available to men”(2007)

They are portrayed in the movies as sexual objects, for example the film The Ugly Truth (Luketic, 2009), the main hero Mike coaches the heroine Abby into thinking that if she wants to be attractive to man she has to be sexually available ”show your breasts and say good bye”(at the end of her date with a guy she wants to be her boyfriend), at the make over moment the Mike says to Abby : “a man needs something to grab on other than your ass”, ”you have to be two people a librarian and a stripper ”, ”what’s wrong with comfort and efficiency?- nothing, except no one wants to fuck it ”, ”we need a bra for my friend that they can stand up and say hello” In addition Hersey says “Elle is more obviously sexual, but her sexuality is always dignified even when Warner’s fiancée tricks her into attending a party wearing a Playboy Bunny outfit”(2007).

Legally Blond (Luketic, 2001) is filled with sexuality, the entire movie is banter over what is it to be a woman. Worell certifies there are “Media stereotypes that suggest there are expected roles for women including women as sexual objects, women as submissive and less knowledgeable.” (2001, p.703)(Paraphrase) The myth is that women are not able to do anything except be a sexy doll-Barbie. Moreover clothing and hair color are key signifiers, with Elle choosing the colour pink for her clothes and her hair is blonde. Elle is portrayed as ditzy and scatty and that her being selected for Harvard because she is hot and pretty.

“Beauty myths give meaning to women’s beauty as they serve to upholds the importance of attractiveness in women’s lives.” (Worell, 2001, p.190)(Paraphrase) “Ultimately, this conflation of beauty and being fosters the social control of women.” (Worell, 2001, p.190) (Paraphrase)

Many people in daily life watch TV or go to the Cinema to relax and escape from every day routines. Nevertheless the entertainment sends countless messages about gender. One could argue that use of myths create ideology that affect the people in certain ways. Why? Because we see these myths repeating again and again, most of the myths became a cliché.

“Film makers consistently place women in secondary roles, or in positions that emphasize their sexuality, weaknesses, desperation. Men, on the other hand, typically assume roles of great importance and depict characters who are adventurous, charming, and strong. Although exceptions to these patterns exist, for the most part Hollywood films continue to support traditional ideas of gender and cultivate similar ideologies.” (Kosut, 2012, p.113) (Paraphrase)

Reference list:
Berlanti, G. (2010). Life As We Know It [Film]. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures Dunlap, R. & Johnson, W.C. (2013). Consuming contradiction: Media, masculinity and (hetero) sexual identity. Leisure : Journal of the Canadian Association for Leisure, 37(1), 69. Gill, R. (2007). Gender and the media. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Hersey, E. (2007). Love and microphones: Romantic comedy heroines as public speakers. Journal of Popular Film & Television, 34(4), 149-158.

Horrocks, R. (1995). Male myths and icons: Masculinity in popular culture. Basingstoke, Hants: St. Martins Press.

Kosut, M. (2012). Encyclopedia of gender in media. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.

Lovdal, L. T. (1989). Sex role messages in television commercials: An update. Sex Roles, 21(11/12), 715-724. doi:10.1007/BF00289804 Luketic, R. (2009). The Ugly Truth [Film]. USA: Columbia Pictures. Luketic, R. (2001). Legally Bloned [Film]. USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Maguire, S. (2001). Briget Jones’s Diary [Film]. UK: Miramax Films.

Marshall, G. (2001). The Princess Diaries [Film]. USA: Buena Vista Pictures. Marshall, G. (1990). Pretty Woman [Film]. USA: Buena Vista Pictures.

Toth, E. L., & Aldoory, L. (2001). The gender challenge to media: Diverse voices from the field. Cresskill, N.J: Hampton Press.
Worell, J. (2001). Encyclopedia of women and gender: Sex similarities and differences and the impact of society on gender. San Diego, Calif: Academic Press.


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