This past weekend, my good friend and I saw the Entourage movie. In case you didn’t know, Entourage is the story of movie star Vincent Chase, and the friends/employees and relatives who form his titular “entourage.” Most episodes feature innumerable faceless girls in bikinis who rarely get to speak.
Full disclosure here: I was actually a fan of the show and have seen every single episode. In fact, I watched some of them more than once. I thoroughly enjoyed the show biz satire, found the intrigue of seeing inside a Hollywood agency fascinating, and did think its lead actor, Adrian Grenier, was totally cute.
I went to see the movie, because I wanted more of the same things I enjoyed from the original HBO series. I did get that. There is drama surrounding an unreleased film and conflicts with financiers who know nothing about cinema that are sometimes comical. Unfortunately, despite all this, the movie has one fatal flaw we need to talk about: the objectification of its women characters.
As I watched this movie, I was struck by how flagrant and joyful the objectification of its actress’ bodies was. The camera close-ups and lingers on women’s asses and boobs, hardly allowing any of them to say a single word, or even make a meaningful facial expression.
The women are decorations, accessories that serve to prove Vincent Chase has an enviable life complete with adoring beach babes who follow him everywhere he goes, as if none of them have jobs, family obligations, or even friends of their own.
Of course, sometimes the women do get a few sentences. When they do, however, the lines are mostly fawning over Vincent Chase and his awesomely awesome awesomeness.
In the case of Emily Ratajkowski, the model turned actress from the Blurred Lines video, who plays herself, her role gives her a fair amount of screen time, but is not developed at all. Ratajkowski exists as a conventionally hot object of lust our hero Vince and his antagonist fight over. She is a plot device says little except to reassure Vince that his latest movie is “amazing.” Do we learn much about her hopes and dreams, or even WHY she likes Vince? No, none of that seems to matter.
The one major female character in the Entourage movie is Sloan, played by Emmanuelle Chriqui. I’ll admit she does sort of have an arc. At first, though she was once engaged to E (Vince’s best friend/manager) and is pregnant with a child he fathered, she is reluctant to be with him romantically. Why? Well, he did steal her godfather’s business and repeatedly prioritized getting drunk with his friends over their relationship. It seems natural she’d be hesitant to get back together with someone who treats her so badly.
Of course, this being the movie version of Entourage, a show where the guys always win in the end, Sloan eventually “gets over” her issues with E and commits to their relationship once again in the delivery room. What makes her come to this conclusion? We don’t KNOW. We only hear that’s she’s “over” her past issues with her partner secondhand, when E. Tells Vincent Chase the good news. After E. informs his friends of his joyous reunion with his beloved, he then leaves Sloan at the hospital with their newborn daughter to drive away in a convertible with his friends. What a good father!
So yes, Sloan is allowed an arc, but she isn’t even allowed to explain it in her own words! And furthermore, it’s very hard for the critical viewer to fill in the blanks and understand why she would ever want this man back in her life.
In the end, I feel more than comfortable declaring this movie guilty of extreme objectification. I believe that at its heart, objectification is about reducing someone to only their physical parts. Through this process, they become a visual to be consumed, a literal object. This phenomenon hurts women by training us the viewers to filter them through this male gaze that only cares about their exposed flesh.
However, I want to emphasize that just because one puts on lingerie and shows others one’s ass, this is not necessarily objectification. One can wear sexy clothes and still be a subject, not an object. It all depends on whether you are allowed a meaningful voice to go along with your body.
For example, last week, Caitlyn Jenner revealed herself to the world in a conventionally sex white body suit on the cover of Vanity Fair. This is not objectification. Why? Because Caitlyn was given a voice. She was interviewed, allowed to express herself and her thoughts regarding her own identity.
The cover also came with an entreaty to us, the viewers, to “Call me Caitlyn.” Thus, Jenner is telling us how she wants her body to be interpreted. She is not merely there as a passive object to be consumed, she is a subject telling a story about how her life is changing and how our perception of her ought change with it. The Caitlyn Jenner cover shows that sexy clothes are not the enemy. One can reveal one’s flesh while telling one’s story to great effect.
Asses and boobs are not the enemy either. I contend the enemy is stories like Entourage that capitalize off of these things, but fail to give the people who possess them anything instrumental to do but stand there and look pretty.
Ultimately, I do not fault the women in the Entourage movie for taking work as disembodied boobs and butts. As a fledgling actress in Hollywood, you take the work that you can get and hope something better comes along later, I suppose. I do, however, blame every one of the people behind this movie for making hot girls into props instead of people.
I would like Hollywood to know that is possible to show girls in conventionally sexy, barely-there outfits while still giving them interesting things to say, and allowing at least some of them to undergo genuine character development.
I’m not saying the only way to make a feminist-friendly production is to cover up all the women all of the time. It would be nice, however, in the year 2015, if movies like Entourage could – if not pass the Bechdel Test – give every girl whose boobs it closes up on at least one line.