By Anemone Cerridwen. Research conducted December 2010 to March 2011. Posted July 2012.
One of my biggest concerns since I started taking acting lessons over a decade ago is the way actors are expected to perform sexualized content if it's written into the role. Apparently, we're all supposed to be just fine with it, no matter what it is, or at least fine with the more common forms of it.
Personally, I think it's all sexual harassment. I don't want to do it, and I suspect almost everyone else feels the same way. But if you want the role, you gotta pucker up (or whatever they're asking you to do). Totally illegal in most workplaces. And often, where it is legal, people tend to do a lot of drugs, so legal isn't necessarily the same thing as ok. Plus I can't help but think it has to mess up people's personal lives, especially as they get older and want to settle down in exclusive relationships.
So one of the things I did was file a legal complaint with a human rights tribunal, claiming that sexualized content was sexual harassment. They rejected my complaint, saying I could always choose other roles. Oh, really?
Can you always choose other roles? To what extent? Does it depend on whether you're male or female?
To be more specific: Are there sex differences in the number of roles available with sexualized content in them? Are there sex differences in the amount of sexualized content in each role? Do men and women have an equal chance to choose non-sexualized work if they wish to? And if you want to choose other kinds of roles, what are the odds of your being able to?
Note that this study in and of itself is not a judgement of sexualized content, just a question: how much is there for each sex? First you collect data, then you pass judgement on what it tells you.
What I did was take the top five grossing films from 2001-2005 for each category of Sex/Nudity as rated by Screenit!: None, Minor, Mild, Moderate, Heavy, and Extreme. Since most films are in the final three categories with respect to sexualized content, this sample is biased in favour of films that are less sexualized than normal. Selecting a more representative sample of films (compared to the actual proportions of films released in each category) might change the results.
I also limited myself to live action films.
I counted acts of touch, and categorized them as sexualized (not legal with a five-year-old) and non sexualized (legal with a five-year-old). I also kept track of sexualized or romantic dialogue and other content that wasn't actual touching or verbalization (e.g. looks), and dress. Basically anything that might make someone uncomfortable, in any kind of workplace, including touch that would not qualify as sexual harassment, but might still bother some people. (I added non-sexualized touch after I saw Boromir ruffle Frodo's hair. I'd HATE to have anyone do that to me.) I didn't include people carrying very small children who needed to be carried. I also didn't include simple handshakes, since that's office conduct, and we're all supposed to be used to it. (Though it might make some people uncomfortable.)
I watched each film once to see what it was about (if I hadn't seen it already), then at least twice (as many times as needed), counting events. Then I watched the film with the commentary and the DVD extras, to see if that added to my data. In total I watched each film from 3 to 8 times, plus in addition sometimes repeating individual scenes many times per viewing. Can you tell I had time on my hands? I included deleted scenes, since my concern is what's in the job description rather than what audiences end up seeing. I also rated the extended versions of the three Lord of the Rings films at the very end, after rating the theatrical releases earlier on.
|Film||Year||Screenit! Sex/Nudity||MPAA Rating||Box Office*||Order Rated in Study|
|Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone||2001||None||PG||$317,575,550||5|
|LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring||2001||None||PG-13||$314,776,114||1|
|LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring - Extended edition||2001||None||PG-13||$314,776,114||33|
|Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||2002||None||PG||$261,988,482||7|
|War of the Worlds||2005||None||PG-13||$234,280,354||16|
|The Santa Clause 2||2002||None||G||$139,225,854||21|
|LOTR: Return of the King||2003||Minor||PG-13||$377,027,325||23|
|LOTR: Return of the King - Extended edition||2003||Minor||PG-13||$377,027,325||32|
|The Passion of the Christ||2004||Minor||R||$370,614,210||24|
|LOTR: The Two Towers||2002||Minor||PG-13||$340,478,898||10|
|LOTR: The Two Towers - Extended edition||2002||Minor||PG-13||$340,478,898||31|
|The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe||2005||Minor||PG||$291,709,845||19|
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||2004||Minor||PG||$249,358,727||2|
|Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith||2005||Mild||PG-13||$380,262,555||3|
|Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones||2002||Mild||PG||$310,675,583||9|
|Pirates of the Caribbean||2003||Mild||PG-13||$305,388,685||6|
|Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||2005||Mild||PG||$206,456,431||12|
|Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||2005||Moderate||PG-13||$289,994,397||8|
|My Big Fat Greek Wedding||2002||Moderate||PG||$241,437,427||29|
|The Matrix Reloaded||2003||Heavy||R||$281,492,479||4|
|Rush Hour 2||2001||Heavy||PG-13||$226,138,454||22|
|X2: X-Men United||2003||Heavy||PG-13||$214,948,780||11|
|Austin Powers in Goldmember||2002||Heavy||PG-13||$213,079,163||13|
|Mr & Mrs Smith||2005||Heavy||PG-13||$186,336,103||18|
|Meet the Fockers||2004||Extreme||PG-13||$279,167,575||20|
|The Longest Yard||2005||Extreme||PG-13||$158,115,031||27|
|American Pie 2||2001||Extreme||R||$145,103,595||14|
|Bad Boys II||2003||Extreme||R||$138,396,624||17|
*Box office is worldwide, not adjusted for inflation, downloaded 2007.
I have not analyzed the data further than by sex. For example, I could have looked at age x sex interactions (adults interacting with adults, adults interacting with minors, minors interacting with minors, taking sex/gender into account), but I wasn't that keen. If anyone wants to, and wants to be linked here or have your results posted here, you're more than welcome to.
This study took me three months full time. I would never ask anyone to repeat what I've done. (I got very tired by the end, and it was a while before I stopped automatically counting events when watching movies for fun.) But on the other hand, if anyone wanted to repeat this study, using their own criteria for everything, then we could calculate an inter-rater reliability quotient and see whether it makes any difference who the rater is and what criteria are used. As long as you use consistent criteria throughout, and we compare summary data, it shouldn't matter exactly what your criteria are. But it might. You never know.
So if you have as much time to kill as I did (on disability? in a hip cast even?) feel free to have a go at it and send me your results.
Even if no one has the time to replicate what I've done, I welcome practical comments on methodology and results.
Also, if anyone really really really wants an interactive version of my data, so they can update it, argue about it with each other, etc. etc., let me know, with suggestions as to how it could be set up. As it is now, the data is static, but I could set up an interactive version if people are really really keen.
Where I didn't know who did what, I often listed them below the credits rather than guessing who was who, but sometimes I guessed. Since I didn't count the ones not in the credits as cast, it doesn't really change anything. The credits are as they were when I originally downloaded them from IMDb in 2007. Some lists have probably changed since then.
I would probably have rated the earlier rated films a lot harder if I had rated them later on, and yes I made mistakes, but I was too tired to go back and redo anything. Also, I sometimes didn't include roles that were just voice in the count, but I may not have been consistent here. I doubt it makes much difference, given how many films I rated. See charts for the cumulative means in different orders to see what I mean.