Gratuity In Film

 

Famke Janssen

Famke Janssen

The Wolverine has recently received some flak for what reporters refer to as scenes of “shameless and gratuitous eye candy” and awkward raciness.  The scenes in question are of actress Famke Janssen, who appears as Jean Grey in several dream sequences throughout the film.  The point of the scenes is to demonstrate how the Wolverine character struggles with his past, which the scenes do effectively. Each of the scenes take place in bed and both characters are dressed appropriately for sleep.  So what is so gratuitous about the scenes?  I’m not sure, to be honest.  Janssen is a beautiful woman, and some cleavage is to be seen, but it is not at the center of the scene. If one’s focus is on the actress’s breasts during the scene, that reflects the viewer’s choice, rather than the director’s intent.  The director could have reasonably opted to have both characters sleep in the nude, as many people do, or dress in a flannel two piece that buttons up to the neck, which is far less common but apparently what the reviewer in question thinks ought to have been done.  The irony of course is that Hugh Jackman spends much of the film either shirtless, or with a skimpy tank top on and is frankly far more gratuitously sexualized than any of the characters in the film, but reviewers don’t seem to take issue with that.  The scenes with Janssen are tasteful and effective and not hyper-sexualized in the least.  Some movie goers, it seems, are Puritans, and expect nothing less than for women to be dressed in something akin to a burqa.  Those of us who come from a more practical setting realize that evening wear is meant to be comfortable and likely didn’t even bat an eye during the scene.  The scene was neither awkward, nor racy.

 

Alice Eve

Alice Eve

This is not the first summer movie to make a wave for this reason.  Star Trek Into Darkness caused a similar stir when actress Alice Eve exposed her midriff in a scene where Chris Pine, as Captain James T. Kirk, stole a glance at Eve’s character, Carol Marcus, as she was changing.  The scene demonstrates Kirk’s sexual playfulness/inappropriateness, which is an established aspect of his character and which was fitting, considering Kirk’s prior interactions with Marcus.  It did not come across as a gratuitous scene, but rather as an example of Kirk’s occasional sexual inappropriateness.  The film did a great job of presenting Carol Marcus not as a sexual object, but rather as an intelligent moral character whose contributions to the plot were integral.  But again, some people seem to take a Puritan view, whilst failing to understand the meaning of the word gratuitous.  Such scenes are not only to be expected in film, but it would be a detriment to the work in many instances to exclude them.  Before criticizing the movie, people should consider first how the scenes work and what they bring to the film.  If the scenes do not work and bring nothing to the film, then they can be considered gratuitous.  If not, then the word gratuitous simply does not apply.

Alice Eve

Alice Eve

 

 

 

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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