back to list

Objectification

ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Sept. 22, 2017
likes!



This is mainly an issue with female characters…
But what IS objectification?
Objectification is when you rob a character of traits that make them human and turn them into something closer to an object.

One common view, that I feel is in error, is that characters are objectified by how they're depicted and what they're wearing…

Why is that wrong?
Well a character, like a human, is not defined by their wardrobe or physical attributes. Though as Tantz Aerine has previously discussed in her newspost, it CAN tell you things about the character.

Wardrobe is a tell - http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/news/2017/sep/01/wardrobe-is-a-tell/
Communicating with clothes - http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/news/2017/sep/09/quackcast-339-communicate-with-clothes/

But you fundamentally misunderstand objectification if you reduce it to outfit and breast size. If that's the crux of your argument you haven't thought about it enough. The irony is that by focusing too much on the clothes or appearance you're the one doing the objectification, that's how it works.

Is the viewer being MADE to focus on the character's outfit and physical attributes and therefore be encouraged to sexually objectify the character? Or is it a case of the viewer not being able to look beyond those things?

In order to truly objectify a character you deny their humanity or you make them less human than other characters. This can happen with any type of character by anyone but in my experience it's mainly done to female characters when written by male writers. It seems to be an unfortunate cultural trait. When you're aware of it you'll notice it in comics, novels, and movies; the female characters are often lusted after, loved, they help, they nurture etc, but have no agency of their own and that becomes ineffably lame. Their role is often one dimensional and that consists of supporting the male characters or creating plot points or tension for them to work with- needing to be rescued or twisting an ankle, to bring up two old moldy classic examples.
It's just as prevalent in modern pop-culture, The Big Bang Theory is a great example; Penny and the rest of the female cast are secondary to the male characters, almost everything they do enables them while the females are never allowed the same level of well rounded humanity that the males are. Fundamentally they are objects of admiration. The entire premise of the show is based around the very simple concept that undersexed, childish nerds will acquire traits of respectable adult masculinity only when they manage to possess a girlfriend. The women in that show are basically strapons. :)

You could say that in the example of The Big Bang Theory the women are performing the role of reflection characters, but the context is important here; when most of the one dimensional reflection characters are female, and the main characters are male then you have a problem. Context is important though, always remember that! These things are relative: maybe ALL the characters are one dimensional? Maybe objectification is the joke or maybe there's something else? Marilyn Monroe and her imitators like Madonna, Kylie Monologue and Lady Gaga are key examples of this, early in their careers they owned the classic image of a sexually objectified woman and turned it around, capitalising in the sexual power it gave them instead of being ruled by it.

Why is objectification bad, especially if so many people do it?
I won't say it's always bad, but most of the time it is. Unfortunately it's a default so it's all too prevalent. If your female cast is objectified then they're not fully realised characters, this makes your work less relatable. If you have male characters chiefly interacting with female characters who're just cut-outs then your work will lag, sag and become lame and childish. Women are human beings as well.

There are also many instances where objectification can actually be good.
For example, a point of view story where things are viewed from one single perspective. That character can't be expected to see everyone as fully realised humans, they might only see their importance or use in terms of how they relate to themselves. An adult sex story is another example of where objectification is appropriate. In such stories the sex is often the focus, not characterisation. Similarly in classic retro styled adventure Pulp stories the plot is the main focus and not the characters. The main character is often barely any more realised than his objectified female sidekick. That's an established style and trope so it's good to play around with.

What do you think about objectification?

comment

anonymous?

bravo1102 at 9:45PM, Sept. 22, 2017

Possibilities are endless in the world of fiction. When creating a world one can define gender roles and sexuality as one sees fit. So one can create a character where there are no assumptions, just the character. Then when putting that character in her world, that's where the culture and its ideas of sex roles comes in. That character never had to accept or follow those cultural assumptions because she is an individual first.

Emevsa at 8:54PM, Sept. 22, 2017

@oz - That's a good point about characters being influenced by culture and the expectations that come with that in regards to where they stand in that society. I was talking about building a character from its core, devoid of that however. Who they are is shown by how they react to the society they are brought up in and the agency they have in their decisions. I agree that society affects a character's development a great deal, but they are who they are at their core, regardless of their gender.

bravo1102 at 8:33PM, Sept. 22, 2017

By the way that hyperbole was the point behind the naked girl end table in the still from Clockwork Orange. Kubrick had been accused of moving around his cast and treating actresses especially like so much furniture. (If I remember correctly it was Jean Simmons in Spartacus)

bravo1102 at 8:23PM, Sept. 22, 2017

@oz: hyperbole to make a point. Let's go to the girlfriend example, could the character be replaced with a stuffed toy and it still work? That's an objectified character. For all the character growth and interaction the second person in the scene could be replaced with a couch because there's no life to the second character.

ozoneocean at 8:16PM, Sept. 22, 2017

@Emesva - I like the gender flipping in Adventure Time as well, but I think that might be going a little far. Females and males still have some traits about them that are culturally distinct. You don't want to lose all that nuance... Though in many instances it can be ok.

ozoneocean at 8:11PM, Sept. 22, 2017

@Bravo Objectifying someone right into furniture is a little extreme :D I think they can still be objectified without going quite that far... I do like the idea of cutting up chairs and table though, that'd make a great psycho killer thriller!

bravo1102 at 8:04PM, Sept. 22, 2017

Stories need spear carriers or as Hollywood used to call them "stock" characters from Central Casting. Sometimes a character is part of the background and nothing more than a piece of furniture. But-- when the narrative has that character in a role more importantthan that piece of furniture. Like a main character's girl/boyfriend? Its like the sequence in Wayne's World with the gas station attendant. They have the guy from Central Casting and it was meaningless but they pull him out and put in Chuck Heston and he gives life to the character and the scene means something. In this medium it's up to the creator to make that walk on meaningful since we can't rely on the talent of an actor to give it meaning. Give him a name and a motivation. One trait that makes him a person. (Big tits does not a character make. Thats objectification and you might as well hang a bra on a floor lamp As one director put it referring to Marilyn Monroe)

bravo1102 at 7:48PM, Sept. 22, 2017

It's said the best way to tell an objectified character is if it can be replaced with a piece of furniture and the narrative doesn't suffer or change. That is different from a character in a exploitation piece because it's not very interesting for your psycho killer to be slicing up a living room sectional couch as opposed to nubile teens.

Emevsa at 5:52PM, Sept. 22, 2017

One way you can avoid objectification and build a realistic female character, is to pretend they are devoid of gender. If they could be easily gender flipped with little to no change in their character, you're in the right direction. I really admire the way Adventure Time did this with their cast. Fiona and Cake were still recognisable as Finn and Jake's counterparts despite being a different gender. The same can be said for Prince Gumball and Marshall. Although through the context of The Ice King/Lumpy Space Princess' fanfictions, they both still manages to capture the essence of the characters around them and maintain it throughout their narrative. I suppose that says a lot about their writing abilities huh? Haha :D

Tantz_Aerine at 3:09PM, Sept. 22, 2017

Great article! I also agree that to objectify anything means to take away from the whole that had been before. Having characters objectify other characters though is totally legit.

Udyr at 12:28PM, Sept. 22, 2017

There is so much cool stuff one can create... NO IDEA why people dont create fullfilled characters. I mean sure i get it, those who show up in 2 pages and leave is one thing, but people who skip out on THEIR MAIN CAST? One of the most annoying in my opinion-objectficated characters I know of in television is Dexters girlfriend (in Dexter, the serial killer show, not the tiny dork in the labratorium from the 90s :D). The actress is ok but her character was so boring and most of the time shes seen either in the sheets or with her kids and being super 'worried'. I feel it speaks for most series with a weak female side role.

AmeliaP at 10:30AM, Sept. 22, 2017

It's a GREAT article! "What do you think about objectification?" Well, I think it's worse when it's a woman creating stories with female objectification.We (men and women), as creators, have to turn it into something as an exception to the rule, not a standard point to follow, making it a necessary evil in SOME stories.


Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Google+