Breaking news: Hollywood discriminates against women! OK, the U.S.C. study merely confirms what we already knew or suspected. Twice as many speaking parts go to men than women (67.2% versus 32.8%). When women are on screen, they are significantly more likely to “wear sexy clothing . . . , such as swimwear and unbuttoned shirts (25.8% versus 4.7%), to expose skin (23% versus 7.4%) and to be described by another character as attractive (10.9% versus 2.5%).”
The study’s most disturbing conclusion concerns the sexualization of teenage female characters. Teenage females displayed revealing clothing and partial nudity as frequently as 21- to 29-year-old females. Teenage female characters wore sexy clothing significantly more than teenage males (33.8 versus 5.3%). Even skin exposure (showing cleavage, midriff or upper thigh regions) was high and significantly imbalanced (28.2% versus 11.2%).
Teenagers emulate what they see. It is no surprise then that young girls want to appear sexier and engage in sexual acts—see Amber Cole. Girls attempting to be sexy are no longer thinking about trying to act older or more mature. Instead, teenage girls just want to keep up with their perceived peers, the young actresses they see in movies.
The movie industry’s exploitation of teenage females is shameful. According to Smith, sexualizing teenage females may contribute to male viewers perceiving younger and younger girls as “eye candy.” As bad as it is with adult actresses, a movie displaying female minors for the sexual delight of male viewers borders on child pornography. Hollywood’s objectification of teenage females increases “body shame” and “appearance anxiety” among girls.
Unfortunately, shame does not change much in Hollywood. So long as these movies rake in box office returns, Hollywood will continue to produce what it thinks will sell: sex. That means that we, as society, must collectively tell Hollywood that its treatment of teenage females is abhorrent. The only way that we can do that so Hollywood will listen is at the box office.