Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a great film. And Uma Thurman, playing the young naïf is a great actress. But who knew it came at such an expense: “I could not stand being the inflatable sex doll everyone wanted me to be. I was naive, sexually, when I made that film and it felt paralysing to be thrust in to this overtly sexual image which had nothing to do with who I was”, she recently admitted to The Sun.
Seeing Uma Thurman now, in her 40s, with a child, beautiful still of course but with a worldly face and a woman’s body, it feels strange to think of her feeling so intimidated and objectified.
But of course the objectification of women is an old story, and one that goes hand in hand with the notion of ‘fair game’ i.e. the predatory notion that when someone turns 18 they become ‘fair game’. Who remembers when Charlotte Church’s impending 18th birthday was celebrated by a countdown by one national newspaper? And who didn’t feel a distinct amount of schadenfreude when she then became the key witness in the Leveson Inquiry over phone hacking?
Exactly how they (they being certain newspapers, directors, websites – most media outlets, not to mention the film industry) get away with putting young women in adult positions beggars belief. And for what end? So we can ogle women in roles well above their years? Why not cast a woman who has come of age? Is it because she won’t participate, won’t fulfil whatever sexualised role has been carved out for them? When a recent survey suggested we look at women the same way we look at houses and sandwiches: as composites of attractive parts, we all laughed. Except it’s true
After all these young women, thrust into adult roles, the ones who have to live with the reality that they don't live up to the fantasy and then get type-cast or worse.
On the brilliant male feminist website, GoodMenProject.com, writer Jayson Gaddis did a straw poll of the 7 reasons men objectify women:
1. It’s biology
2. Because we just want to have sex
3. Because I’m a guy
4. I’m an animal, I’m supposed to want to have sex with every woman I see.
5. I’m just horny
6. It’s normal male behavior
7. I don’t objectify women…
All of which strikes an unsavoury chord when you think many of these women – Uma Thurman, Mila Kunis et al – were barely out of teenagedom.
Surprisingly, it also happens to men. Tom Daley’s recent coming of age has been celebrated with a string of glorious shots of the diver topless, bottomless, wearing just a bow tie and a pair of shades. And hands up if you’ve seen Countdowntiljustinbieberturns18.com? Charming.
When Mila Kunis also spoke out about being photoshopped as a teenager to appear 'sexier' in men’s magazines, it really hit home that this happens. A lot. And while Uma and Mila have gone on to bigger things, who knows how many female actresses fall victim to the sexualisation of young women in Hollywood, never to be seen on screen again? We'll never know.
Uma Thurman in Dangerous Liaisons