This video showed up on my Tumblr dashboard and I just had to share it. I love the way this blogger’s mind works. It’s something that’s been bothering me about romantic comedies, some of which are dressed up as sci-fi and fantasy movies, for a long time, but I wasn’t able to clearly articulate the concept.
This trope is also called by another name: the “infantilization” of female characters, and it also encompasses the tropes of the “dumb blonde”, and the “sexy schoolgirl”.
Well, the Pop Culture Detective (this is a series) has thoroughly articulated this problem for me. He basically breaks down the trope of the sexy, but naively innocent female character that the primary male character always falls in love with, lists the films that follow the trope, the films that turn it on its head, and briefly discusses its origins in colonialism. The video is some 18 minutes long, and I’m warning you, some of the imagery from past movies is astonishingly cringeworthy!
Now the Pop Culture Detective is a white man, so I don’t expect him to go into details on issues of race, although he is aware enough to briefly mention the tropes racist origins. One of the things you will notice in the images is the overwhelming whiteness of this trope. The trope may have been birthed in the racist stereotypes of Indigenous women, but for the past fifty, sixty years white women have embodied it. During that time period, when Europe was trying to collect as many countries as possible, this particular trope came from stereotypes of Native women being innocent and/or subservient, but sexy, savages.
These are tropes that continue to this day, (and a few of those tropes find their way into the primal black person stereotype with terms like “jungle fever”). The article below by Mediasmarts, has managed to connect these sexualized stereotypes to media tropes such as “Missing White Woman Syndrome”, to explain why the lives of missing, raped, or murdered Brown , Black and Indigenous women, are ignored by news reports.
You may also recognize, if you’ve ever visited the website We Hunted the Mammoth, most of the talking points of MRAs and other misogynists. Many of their beliefs about women, (that they are like children who need a firm guidance from men, that their “hypergamous” sluts, whose sexuality needs to be tightly reined in, that women are stupid, and shouldn’t be allowed to engage in society they way men do) are little more than wish fulfillments, aimed squarely at white women, and it’s not difficult to believe that a lot of their beliefs have been informed by seventy years of media depicting white women in this manner.
One of the arguments being had, across social media, is marginalized people trying to convince White people that everything we see in the media is representative of the real world. Media stereotypes not only mirror real world beliefs and activities, but actually aided and abetted the formation of such beliefs.
When the stories of PoC are told through a White male lens (as so much of Hollywood is), these types of issues are ignored, because the creators neither know, nor care, and illustrates why it’s so important for PoC to also work behind the scenes, not just in front of the cameras, to tell our own stories, from our own perspectives.