Before I begin, I would like to note that this is something concerning a sub-conscious tendency. This is not in reference to men that LITERALLY see women as objects; people that do this are not victims of multimedia but rather of their own psychology. These men even view other men as objects, except that the intended purpose is not sex but for being a means to an end. This article is intended to address problems in everyday males; it likely applies to people you consider to be very nice and warm individuals.
Modern cinema’s impact on the male psyche first occurred to me about two years ago during a discussion in my script writing class. We were shown a low budget short film wherein a male protagonist sees a lovely young lady on the subway and proceeds to desperately chase her down throughout the film to talk to her. This is perhaps the most common plot of independent films made by rookie filmmakers. Afterward the class was asked to give their opinion of the film’s structure, symbolism, etc. One student (let us call this person “Student A”) said: “I didn’t like how the girl was simply a prize to be chased down by the main character.” Then the student sitting next to me (let’s name this one “Student B”) replied with: “I don’t see how that’s a problem, I’m all for feminism but shouldn’t the woman be a sort of goal he needs to work for?”
Another year later, I found myself reading an article that described the various social and biological reasons that turn men into “women-hating machines,” as the article described it. This article made reference to the fact that movies train men to believe that women are items to be won rather than individuals.
You are likely familiar with the concept that popular films treat women less than kindly. I need not cite any examples because they are literally swamping the modern film scene. The details vary but the basic pattern is the same: guy likes gal, conflict happens, guy overcomes conflict, guy gets gal, the end. The aforementioned conflict need not even be related to the intended romance. This appears everywhere from action blockbusters to teen romances to low budget indie films. And on some level it makes sense, by proving himself through the fires of whatever trouble the plot has to offer he has shown his mettle and thereby deserves a reward. And what greater reward is there for a man than a beautiful woman?
Of course there are many exceptions to this rule. However, these exceptions rarely serve more than to further this stereotype. Let’s look at a strong exception to this rule: Star Wars. In the original trilogy the main protagonist is Luke Skywalker, but he does not end up with the leading lady, Princess Leia. Instead Han Solo, a secondary character, gets the girl in the end. The problem with this supposed exception is that it does little to change the circumstances. In the first film of the trilogy, it is clearly intended that Leia is to be the romantic interest of Luke. Only after the fans responded better to Han Solo did George Lucas alter Leia’s attention from Luke to Han in the following films. If you are a strong fan of Star Wars you are saying: “But Leia turned out to be Luke’s sister, they couldn’t be romantically involved.” To which I reply: If George Lucas had wanted Leia to end up with Han, why didn’t he just have her choose Han Solo over Luke? The answer is simple, Luke is the main character, therefore nothing can possibly deprive him of his right to have the leading woman in the film, least of all her own decision. If Leia had chosen Han Solo of her own free will, the audience would feel as though Luke had been betrayed. It would inevitably imply that Leia had led Luke on but jumped to the next available man when it was convenient (during a large chunk of the second film Leia travels with Han Solo, while Luke is elsewhere. This functions as a pivotal time in which her romantic interest in Han Solo blooms). The only way for Leia to end up with the guy that fans loved the most, but not be called a whore by the audience, was to create a situation wherein Luke and Leia absolutely could NEVER be together. Leia’s own ability to make decisions is never an option.
Harry Potter functions as a more modern example. The lead female of the series, Hermione, becomes romantically involved with the sidekick, Ron, rather than with the titular Harry Potter. The issue here is that Ron is constantly terrified that Hermione may have secret feelings for Harry. Why? Because Harry is the main character and is infinitely more amazing and likeable than Ron. Poor Ron is racked with this insecurity to the point that it drives a wedge between himself and his friends, ultimately causing him to leave temporarily. The point is that Ron “is allowed to have” Hermione, and he does so at the approval of Harry. Rest assured, if Harry truly wanted Hermione he would have had her, and Ron knows this. Of course this example would be rendered moot if only Hermione made it clear that she loves Ron rather than Harry (romantically at least). The conflict could have played out exactly the same, since Ron never vocalizes his insecurity until he is already beyond the point of reason. The film oddly forgets to make it clear that Hermione has a say in all of this, whether one wants to admit it or not, Ron got to have a pretty toy only because Harry had no interest in it.
What does this all boil down to? A horrible case of self-entitlement coming from every young man ever. Everyone see’s themselves as the main character in their own story. And every day we overcome challenges and endure stress. Let us also factor in the horrible stress levels that a high school or college student feels, and THEN factor in the raging hormones of said male high school/college student. In the mind of the 18 year old male, he is a champion against all sorts of harrows, and he has only one desire on his mind: sex. Never mind that his challenge was studying for a hard test or finishing his shift at The Home Depot, he has seen in every book, movie and T.V. show that when one works hard and proves their worth the reward is the ultimate desire: a woman. So why the hell shouldn’t he get what he wants? He is not a bad person for this, he cannot control his own biological urges, and it is not his fault that film has put him into this mindset. His mistake is the same as modern cinema’s, he has forgotten the variable of the woman’s own choice. The idea that despite how “amazing” he is, that a woman may just simply not be interested in him is absolutely nonsensical to him. “I like her, and I am a good guy, why SHOULDN’T she like me?” The result is emotionally scarred men and mistreated women.
In short, film has turned thousands of us men into self-entitled crybabies. However the real problem is not this sense of self-entitlement, because men (or at least most men) eventually can understand that this isn’t how the world works, and can in turn accept that they won’t always get what they want. The issue is that this thought process seems to be permeating deeper than to just the male sex drive. It seems to me that this subconscious view appears in women as well. Although I do not believe I am qualified to understand the exact implications of this phenomenon (mind you, it is possible I am completely wrong about this inference). This could result in a sense of equal self-entitlement, aka: “I am a woman and he is a man, thereby he must do something to impress me.” Or it could have very complex affects on a woman’s self esteem. I am no psychologist, and thereby I won’t specifically hypothesize how this affects the average female. But I would like to note that if you recall the anecdote from the first paragraph, that contrary to what you might have assumed, Student A was a male and Student B was a female.