That’s What She Said: Body Image and Women’s Dialogue in Film

© Copyright 2018 Michelle Moreira, Ryerson University.

Language—through its various forms —is crucial in creating one’s reality. The ways in which words and sentences are constructed, provide insight into a culture’s understanding of time orientation, gender roles, social hierarchies, and one’s overall relationship to the surrounding world. The very language used to present which ideas take priority over others, also reveal a type of social awareness that become crucial in shaping one’s identity. When all of the above are curated through film, the audio and visual demonstrations of language take on a concentrated form. The ideas presented leave little room for an individual’s imagination, forcing an audience consensus towards

Fig. 1. Screenshot of lunch scene in movie Clueless. 1995. Amy Heckerling, Paramount Pictures.

what exactly is taking place. As a result, when the ideas being presented are contextualized into “realistic” scenarios, the audience is left with an illusion of an objective reality. As film plays a vital role in constructing women’s beauty standards—and essentially—their overall value, the specific images and types of language used amongst female characters are analyzed. Working as a direct critique on its objectifying and dehumanizing nature, a final project—presented in the form of film—will demonstrate main themes of thinness, “slut shaming” and “sexiness”, as shown in a collection of other films. By collaborating scenes from different movies, the final project will stand as a critical piece that highlights the issue of self-deprecation used in women’s dialogue. Within the following text, the technical and creative components that both inspired and finished the project are examined. Particularly focusing on the theoretical framework which grounds the creative process, a large portion dedicated to the explanation of using film to critique film, will also be found in the following.


Where to Start?

Almost as if finding pieces to a puzzle that had been constructed before, the list of potential movie clips were so vast and easily accessible, that the inevitable feeling of decision paralysis had been induced. Questions of where to look, what themes to use, organization of content and aesthetic appeal, burdened the initiation of the entire process. In an attempt to step away from an analytically dense approach and refresh my point of view, I decided to watch films that I had seen before and enjoyed. Almost immediately, the unknown themes revealed themselves in three main patterns. For every film screened during the process, there were substantial mentions of “fat”, “slut”, or the need of a makeover. From there, the process began. Using a screen recording app and apple’s iMovie to capture and edit clips, the technical creation came together rather quickly. As if constructing a story-line, most of the difficulty resided in deciding which clips added to the same dialogue, and which began a different one entirely. Though the visual aesthetic was not a main priority, the particularity of the auditory effect heavily influenced the organization of content. In order to fully exploit language’s fluidity, the same ideas and phrases were often linked together, ending in such a way that inspired different objectivities to follow.

Why Film?

In explaining these very issues through the medium of film, the effective auditory and visual tools are seen to work in reverse by exposing the illusion of its objectivity. Editing clips that use the same language over again, such as the word “fat,” results in repetition that can have an overwhelming effect on the audience. By first creating an emotional response that finds such language problematic, the context in which it is used becomes the second point of

Fig. 1. Screen shot of change room scene from movie White Chicks. 2004. Keenen I. Wayans, Columbia Pictures, Revolution Studios.

analysis. In overwhelming the senses through the same covert messages present in everyday life, its prevalence is brought forward into the realm of critical thinking. Taking pre-made content originally created for mindless consumption and “entertainment”, the simple tool of repetition reveals the problematic inner workings that dictate a larger societal ideology. The hyper-exposure of the already present outlines the very aim of presenting content in the described way.

Apart from the use of repetition in highlighting thematic patterns, the messages revealed as a result invite a larger level of audience interaction. By inviting critical thought beyond the limitations of written text, the imagery and sound connected to the selected medium engages the senses—aiding the formation of thought. As opposed to writing an essay analyzing and

contextualizing the discussed content, the mere act of showing rather than explaining lessens the possibility of varying interpretations within the audience. The “objective” and “concrete” nature of visual presentation—as discussed above—works with this notion to demonstrate the pressures and objectivities placed on the female body.

Theoretical Framework

Grounding the film’s creative thought in a base of theoretical analysis, the statistics and framework presented by López-Guimerà et al, also aid in reinforcing the necessity of the project. With a special focus on the media’s obsession of portraying extremely thin and sexualized female bodies, the article effectively draws on social implications through the use of psychological studies, and staggering statistics. In analyzing the complexities between the media and childhood relationship, later issues of body-dysmorphia and eating disorders are understood as the resulting effect of the media’s influence. Almost as if being given a social responsibility through the gaining of such knowledge, an increased focus on demonstrating the toxicity behind this framing of female body was inspired. As a result, one might notice a priority in extracting examples that highlight the obsession of thinness. Working as a type of introduction, it is under this pretext that subordinate arguments of sexiness and “dolling up” are made.

That’s a Wrap Folks

As the written presentation of ideologies are effective in revealing a reality in structures of knowledge, social hierarchy and mass consumption, the exemplification of reality through the extension of film, contains a paradoxical nature that engages the audience in an artificial reality just as meaningful. It is through the removal of audience imagination that the presentation of ideas take on contextual significance, resulting in an illusion of a “natural” order of things. Aware of this exact effect, the final project uses aspects in film to mock, critique, and create a separate dialogue that invites viewers to engage with the medium differently. Editorial tricks of short cuts and repetition of words, reflect the overwhelming amounts of images depicting women’s objectification in everyday life. Providing the viewer with a feeling of “being bombarded on” is tactfully employed to create an emotional response that, in turn, finds the content problematic. Working as a critique on film’s dehumanizing treatment of women, the following assignment also concerns itself with inspiring critical thinking amongst viewers. A critique on both film, and film viewership—presented, is the following.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Works Cited

Guimera, Gemma et al. Influence of Mass Media on Body Image and Eating Disordered Attitudes and Behaviors in Females: A Review of Effects and Processes. Routledge, 2010.

Heckerling, Amy. Clueless. Movie Screen Shot. 1995.

Wayans, Keenen I. White Chicks. Movie Screen Shot. 2004.