Gender Inequality In Ancient Rome & Greek Films Throughout The Years (Movie Review Sample)
Gender Inequality in Ancient Rome and Greek Films.
Gender Inequality in Ancient Rome and Greek Films
The portrayal of the different genders in films, more notably with women has been and still is an obstacle for the progression of gender equality in society. Even though there is still gender inequality for women in being actresses, directors, and writers in regards of screen time, involvement, and pay, there have been improvements since the mid-1900s. In this paper, I will present the progression of gender equality in society that can be observed through the evolution of portrayal of sex and gender in ancient Roman and Greek films throughout the years in terms sexual dominance, age & beauty, and the roles of women in the film industry.
Before attempting to breakdown the themes of gender inequality, it is important to understand the implications of how a patriarchy limited the potential of each gender's role in a film. For example, in the 1950s and 60s women were considered a second-class citizen and President John F. Kennedy even stated, “We want to be sure that women are used as effectively as they can to provide a better life for our people, in addition to meeting their primary responsibility, which is in the home.” (Katie-CNN). Typically, film of the 1950s and 1960s portrayed women in socially conservative roles, such as ‘stand by your man' stereotypes.
With the first film [Quo Vadis] that the class saw, we see indications that point to the fact that there was a clear segregation between male and female actors. As an example, in Quo Vadis, Marcus Vinicius (played by Robert Taylor) was a commanding officer in the Roman army and after three years of being away at war he came back and metLygia (played by Deborah Kerr). To impress her, during dinner he shared his stories and brutalities of war and how he defeated all his enemies. In the later scenes of the film, Lygia did fall for Marcus, for his strength and dominance and I believe that the character of Lygia was written to be the ideal ‘housewife' in how she falls for a ‘manly man' that can support the household. Lygiaembodied the role of the ‘stand by your man' woman in how she acts helpless and how she depended on Marcus highly.In addition to Lygia, we can also see this housewife/motherly figure in Varinia (played by Jean Simmons) from the film, Spartacus. In one of the earlier scenes of the film, the slave girl Varinia, was presented to Spartacus (played by Kirk Douglas) as a form of taunting from Batiatus and Marcellus because they knew that Spartacus has never had a woman. Likewise, we can see the same attitude in how women were treated in ancient Rome where Varinia was simply used as a sexual object of temptation, ridicule and entertainment. Women in ancient Rome were defined by the men in their lives and were mainly valued as wives and mothers. They had a limited public role and could not vote or hold political office. It is interesting to see how little society has changed in the last nineteen hundred years that both women in ancient Rome and in the 1950s could not hold a position of influence because of her gender.
Even if a woman was wealthy, or was married or related to an influential man, she would still be very reticent in her expressions. In an interesting and surprising contrast, to find a woman like Julia (daughter of Augustus) who is assertive. Referred to as ‘Julia the elder', she attracts the attention of historians because she showed a contrasting light on the lives of upper class women in the Roman empire. Julia was known to be a clever and spirited woman that had a sharp tongue, and wifely virtues were not her strength. Arranged to be married by her father to conceive his future successor, Julia's first two husbands died and it left her rich. During the two marriages, it was also rumored that she enjoyed many affairs. For this reason, Augustus became ashamed and he had to make the difficult decision of banishing her to a barren island (Women in the Ancient World, PBS). On the other hand, Lygia (daughter of a retired army general) had none of these strong qualities and she was but a woman who fell for a brute man that she thinks she can convert to her belief in Christianity. These two women provide a compelling contrast in the difference in women who were born into an influential family but acted in opposite of each other in fitting into the gender norm of the time.
An unexpectedly profound film that demonstrated the sad reality of how women were viewed in the 1960s can be seen in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1966). Even though the film was a comedy, it candidly and honestly showed that women were mostly treated as an object. On first thought, the more noticeable form of this sexism was in the prostitutes that were displayed in the middle of the town and were offered in the brothel. When Hero (played by Michael Crawford) and Pseudolus (played by ZerMostel) went to the brothel for the first time we can see that the women were treated as goods that were about to be sold. Several of the women were cleaned in the pool as if they were used cars that had to be cleaned and sold in a used car lot. They had to be spotless and clean so that they will attract buyers willing to pay more. When Marcus Lycus (played by Phil Silvers) was presenting Pseudolus with the ‘merchandise', each different women were exploited for their curves and sexuality in how they danced and entertained the buyer.With the sixth woman that were presented to Pseudolus, he examined the ‘product' by touching her body all over, slapping her behind, checking her teeth and her size as if she was a fruit or vegetable being examined for ripeness in the aisle of the produce section. In addition to this, the next woman that really caught Pseudolus' eye didn't even have to be able to speak in order to parade her sensuality to these men. After getting what Pseudolus and Hero wanted in the first place from the brothel in Philia (played by Annette Andre), Hero and Philia instantly fell in love with each other. While speaking to each other in the garden and talking about how much she was sold for, it was demonstrated that Philia was somewhat dull because she could not count or spell and that her only talent was that she is lovely. She even stated that all she was taught was “charm and grace and no more”.
In the late 1960s and throughout 1970s, there was a push for liberation in equal rights as a woman. Thirty eight percent of American women who worked in 1960 were largely limited to jobs as teacher, nurse or secretary. In 1962, Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique captured the frustration of a generation of college-educated housewives who felt trapped and unfulfilled. As one said, "I'm desperate. I begin to feel I have no ...
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