So there’s this show called 20 to 1, where D-list celebrity flotsam are washed ashore and perform pundit duties until something people actually watch comes on. Each episode counts down twenty “defining moments” in popular culture – mostly Australian – arranged around a loose theme like “Outrageous Comedy Characters” or “Great Movie One-Liners”, during which a plethora of has-been talking heads pop up and share their thoughts. Example thought: “The girls in the James Bond movies had crazy names“. An hour of this is a truly daunting proposition, especially given that Channel 9′s chief demographic is reactionary fuckwits and their advertising reflects this (There’s a spot informing us that one of the people standing for election in Ballarat is pro-choice, and we should “vote with our conscience”. It took half a dozen viewings before I realised, oh, hang on, it’s supposed to make us vote against her).
This episode’s theme is “Sexiest Movie Moments”. It’s running overtime while I wait for CSI: Miami to start, and we’re presently at #3, which is that scene from Basic Instinct, censored for TV with a big cartoon “TOO RUDE!” balloon, giving you a rough idea of who this is aimed at. Cue various pundits talking about how Sharon Stone “has total control” over the men in that scene, followed by slightly more bitter pundits talking about how this isn’t the first time women have controlled men using their amazing sexual powers, AM I RIGHT, BOYS? Then a woman calls her “slutty”, but because she’s a woman it’s not actually sexist or judgmental at all. Phew!
You can see where this is going, obviously. She – and we’re going into generalities here, since I’ve never actually seen Basic Instinct and have no desire to do so – doesn’t have actual control or power over the situation; she has the ability to influence how the people with the power choose to wield it, which is even less useful than it sounds. The second the men with power get over their hormones, they can just say “no” and she’s up the creek without a paddle, while they’re… still in power. She’s got influence over them for as long as she’s still sexy, and that’s only going to work in the very short term, because anybody who lets their sex drive control their professional decision-making process is likely to lose interest as soon as somebody more interesting comes along. Especially if the new person is younger, which gives the astonishing female mind-control powers a shelf-life of… how long? I’m led to believe women simply cease to exist some time after their 25th birthday, anyway; it’s part of their ephemeral mystique.
[Digression: CSI: Miami just started in fine form with a recently-divorced woman attacking a boat with a chainsaw while her ex-husband fires a shotgun into the hull. Caruso goes to their house, which the court has ordered be divided in half with glowing green motion-sensing laser beams. With a knowing look, he intones "Welcome to divorce... of the future". YAAAAAAAAAA! It's technically divorce the present, but whatever]
To resume. The other annoying thing about this particular line of thinking is that it presupposes that the sexual powers can be switched on and off at will and possess no downside. The concept that the men being “controlled” by sexually might go further than the woman wants them to, which she’d be unlikely to be able to do anything about should it happen, isn’t considered. That “She was provocatively dressed, he was horny, he’s male, he can’t help it” is routinely used as an excuse for rape should be proof enough that nobody really believes in it anyway; you can’t simultaneously be in control and be victimised as a result of the exact same thing. We’re back in victim blaming territory again (hah, “back”), where it’s sassy and sexy and fun until you get hurt, at which point it’s your fault and you should have known better. There’s also the matter of women not having control over who decides to sexualise them and when; Newt tells the story of some guy who treated her like complete shit literally just because she had breasts, which doesn’t reall suggest of power or control, to be honest.
The moral of the story is not to watch 20 to 1.
PS. I’ve actually finished my work now, and I just need to print it. “I just need to print it” being the student deadline equivalent of “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph?”