5 Movies and TV Shows That Normalize Sexual Assault and Slut-Shaming: This Needs to Stop

Culture

A handful of young girls grow up striving to embody the characteristics of a "good girl." The idea of a "good girl" is perpetuated by society and reiterates harmful gender stereotypes. A "good girl" is someone who is obedient; a girl who sits in the back of the room. Her opinions and thoughts do not matter. In pop culture, a "good girl" is someone who is not promiscuous and who does not stand up for herself when men behave inappropriately. In order to begin resolving this serious issue that provides impressionable viewers with distorted ideas of what a healthy relationship entails and shames promiscuous women, we must analyze a few movies that are part of this issue.

1. Friends

Friends is known to be the best comedy of its era. The show has six main characters: three men and three women. They all live together in New York and overcome challenges and obstacles together. Two characters in the friendship group, Rachel and Ross, date. Ever since they were in high school together, Ross has had a huge crush on Rachel. When Rachel and Ross are dating, Ross is very obsessive and emotionally abusive. Fans of the show most likely have never realized how the actions and behavior of Ross are questionable. This is due to the fact that the show uses humor to cover the issue at hand.

For instance, when Ross believes that Rachel is sexually involved with her co-worker Mark, he comes to her office, interrupts her work, and embarrasses her. At other times, Ross follows Rachel to ensure that she is not cheating. It is apparent that Ross does not trust Rachel. He never tries to communicate his feelings or concerns to her.

The two characters' relationship is completely toxic.

2. Bridget Jones's Diary

Photo Credit: BuzzFeed

In Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget, the protagonist, is interested in two men. Bridget is in a relationship with one of the men, Daniel Clever, who is, at that time, her boss. Daniel emails Bridget with very sexual, inappropriate messages. Cleaver even grabs Bridget's butt in an elevator without asking permission. When Daniel touches Bridget without her consent, he is not showing his affection for her. Instead, he is sexually assaulting her, as sexual assault is defined as “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim," according to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.

3. The Notebook

Similar to Bridget Jones's Diary, The Notebook is an admired, loved film, despite the fact that it is based on harassment. The Notebook is set in the 1940s in South Carolina. Allie, a rich woman, falls in love with Noah, a mill worker. At the beginning of the movie, Noah hangs off of a Ferris wheel in order to convince Allie to go on a date with him. Even though Allie clearly states that she is not romantically interested in him, Noah continues harassing Allie until she finally agrees.

The Notebook praises men like Noah who do not "give up" until they get women to comply. This directly relates to the status quo, where this despicable behavior is excused and pushed aside. When children and teenagers are exposed to such films, they begin to find predatory male behavior acceptable.

4. Mean Girls

Mean Girls is, unquestionably, the most popular movie among teenagers. Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan, moves from Africa to the suburbs of Illinois. Cady begins attending a public school, and she learns that her school is separated by cliques. She is able to join the "cool" girls at school, who are called "the Plastics." By the end of the movie, Cady comes to learn that she, along with her friends, values shallow aspects of life over real, authentic ones. Throughout the movie, there are several instances of slut-shaming.

The word "slut" is used as a weapon by all the girls at school. Girls use "slut" to belittle other girls. One of the most notable scenes in Mean Girls is when Regina George, the most popular girl at school, pretends that she has been slut-shamed. This causes a school-wide fight betweengirls, where a handful of girls call each other sluts, whores, and tramps, among many other offensive names. Promiscuous girls are seen as being impure or disgusting, which clearly connects to the concept of a "good girl."

5. Easy A

The slut-shaming in Mean Girls is not unique among movies. Easy A is one of them. Olive Penderghast is the epitome of a "good girl" until she pretends to be a "slut." A rumor travels around the school regarding Olive's promiscuity, and immediately, her "good girl" persona is forgotten. There are several sections in the film where Olive's classmates treat her badly and unkindly merely because of the rumors surrounding her sexuality. In fact, Olive's classmates create a protest against Olive's promiscuity. A protest sign has "Exodus: 20:14" written. Exodus 20:14, one of the Ten Commandments, states, “Thou shalt not commit adultery - This commandment forbids all acts of uncleanness, with all those desires, which produce those acts and war against the soul." Even though the film's creator may have had good intentions by trying to illustrate that one's sexual choices should not define them, Olive's sexual behavior is still an essential part of the plot.

Society impacts all of us in many different ways. Whether it is a trend that everyone wants to take part in or unrealistic and outdated stereotypes that society tells us we must follow, society has a countless number of impacts, both positive and negative. Movies that normalize sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault are part of this prominent problem. Comedy in pop culture that is used to conceal inappropriate messages is part of this prominent problem. Films that undermine women for being proud of their sexuality are part of the prominent problem.

Sophene Avedissian
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Sophene Avedissian is a freshman at Westridge School for Girls. She is the author of Stand Tall, a book that highlights women's rights issues, an editor for Polyphony Lit, and a Los Angeles Times High School Insider. During her free time, Sophene enjoys reading, playing soccer, and spending time with family and friends.