Objectifying Margot Robbie: A “Highlight” of the Last Decade
That throwaway line is revealing. For those not familiar with the movie, Margot Robbie plays the main female lead, a character who is sexualized and objectified by the screenplay, the characters in the story, and the eye of the camera itself. According to Berardinelli, the delightfulness of the movie is due, in large part, to Robbie being in various stages of undress. There is more to the movie than just that—but certainly no less.
In commenting on the above scenario, the ScholarDay blog notes the following:
When we as an audience see [Robbie] completely nude, a woman who never wanted to do a nude role in order to have a career in Hollywood, we are looking at a woman who had to take three shots of hard liquor in the morning in order to stand there naked in front of us [according to a HuffPost article]. When talking about the character she played in The Wolf of Wall Street, Robbie was tragically adding commentary on the character women are forced to play in a male-ran Hollywood:
“The whole point of Naomi is that her body is her only form of currency in this world.”
The blog continues:
What also makes Robbie’s story so tragic is how interviews and glossy mags talk about her decision to grin and bare it all as if it was the best decision she made in her career. And it is hard to argue with that, considering it was that project that catapulted her to stardom. Though, I would argue nudity had nothing to do with her rise to fame. She is an incredibly talented actor. And incredibly talented actors shouldn’t have fewer roles to choose from based on their unwillingness to let men sexualize them.
If young, aspiring actors see over and over again stories spun in this way, then it will always be the status quo. And such a norm leaves vulnerable up-and-comers all the more vulnerable.
The Wolf of Wall Street both perpetuated the status quo (by forcing an actor to violate her convictions in order to be acceptable to the project) and upped the ante (by pushing the boundaries of how much sexual content is acceptable for one movie, with over 20 sex scenes*).
AN IGNORANT DENIAL OF OBJECTIFICATION
Strangely and sadly enough, Robbie remains oblivious to her public objectification. According to a 2016 article in Metro, “Robbie says she doesn’t feel like she’s been reduced to her looks.” The article then quotes Robbie directly:
“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve got a really good team around me. I haven’t been exploited, I don’t feel,” she explains. “I’m more concerned with being labeled as a sex symbol. That makes me feel more uncomfortable than any day-to-day interactions I have.”
Robbie’s perception, based either out of ignorance or denial, is that she hasn’t been exploited in her career. She seems unaware, or unwilling to recognize, that one of her fears—being sexualized for audiences—has become a career-defining reality.
Has it really been “career defining,” though? Well, don’t take my word for it.
According to the Film School Rejects article I previously quoted, “There’s no denying that Margot Robbie’s sex appeal has played a role in the trajectory of her acting career. . . .Robbie’s rise from ‘who?’ to bona fide movie star has featured a lot of sexual imagery, even by Hollywood standards.” The article adds that Robbie’s performance in Suicide Squad “solidified Harley Quinn’s place as second most stereotypical nerd boy fetish, after Slave Bikini Princess Leia.”
In commenting on the wardrobe choices made for Suicide Squad, a CinemaBlend video states the following: “While we do get a quick glance at Quinn in her classic jester attire, the chosen outfit for the film was definitely on the sexier side. It was inevitable, as Robbie…quickly became a sex symbol after her breakout role in The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Director and producer Kevin B. Lee produced a video essay on Robbie, for which he writes in his artist statement, “Eight of Robbie’s first ten film roles involve nudity or sex scenes. I can’t think of another A-list Hollywood actress whose career beginnings involved so much nudity, not even Sharon Stone.”
POTS AND FROGS
How is it possible that Margot Robbie remains unaware of her objectification, even as she has participated in sexualized content over the years? It appears that she is a victim of what our culture at large has experienced: the deadening of our senses to what is truly objectifying. In a pornified society like ours, we’ve become numb to much of the hypersexualized content that surrounds us.
It stands to reason that this numbness affects actors as well as audiences. It’s almost as if the pornography industry has been grooming mainstream media—and our culture as a whole—in the ways of sexual deviance, pushing the boundaries of acceptability farther and farther out. Our collective conscience is slowly being worn down, to the point that the moral decay of pornified content doesn’t register as rotten.
It’s comparable to the boiling frog fable: if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump right out—whereas, if he’s placed in a pot of tepid water, which is then heated slowly, the frog might not recognize the temperature changes until it’s too late.
Our actors are being trained and conditioned to see the sexualized content they’re filming as innocuous. As an audience, we’re being trained and conditioned to see the sexualized content of our entertainers as normal, acceptable, and even praiseworthy.
But the objectification of human beings made in the image of God is never acceptable. Not if a filmmaker says so. Not if a studio says so.
And not even if an actor says so.
* According to the film’s PluggedIn movie review