The Right Coast

June 10, 2004
A 21st Century Movie
By Mike Rappaport

I have blogged about the movie Troy more than once (here and here), but I have some additional thoughts. As I think about it, there is something pretty unusual about the movie. Unlike many movies, which have plenty of eye candy for men, in the form of beautiful young actresses, or eye candy for both men and women, Troy's eye candy appears to be designed for the female viewer. First, there are the two male stars -- Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom. Second, there is the absence of beautiful female actresses. While I would not go so far in criticizing the appearance of the actress who played Helen of Troy as one reviewer I read -- she was, after all, pretty -- she was nowhere near the beauty that Helen was supposed to be. Hollywood is good at casting beautiful actresses to play ordinary women -- witness Julia Roberts playing Erin Brockovich --but finally a role for a women who is really supposed to be beautiful and they can only cast a very pretty women. By itself, I suppose that would be no big deal, but consider that the captured girl who shares Achilles's tent is not very attractive at all by Hollywood standards. What's up with that?

And then consider the number of skin shots in the movie. I got the distinct impression that the camera focuses more on the bodies of the male stars than the female ones (which may make sense given the casting).

What is one to make of all this? I suppose one obvious possibility is marketing. Men will come to see the movie for the action / violence, and women are induced to come for the attractiveness of the male stars. Perhaps, but why has this formula not been used in the past and why not cast beautiful women in the female roles? I can think of some reasons, but they are not all that compelling -- so enough for now.

Of course, reading this post, you might get the impression that I am just being shallow. Perish the thought. I am genuinely interested in this sociological phenomenon. Now, I must run off and watch my favorite DVD -- Barb Wire. (Just kidding, of course.)

Update: A reader writes:

"I do not believe that the focus on the male body was out of place in the film. Greek history has [alluded] to the fact that men were thought to have superior bodies to women. Not only strong, but beautiful (walk through Florence and you will find several large statues of naked men). Some of the greatest Greek philosophers were openly homosexual, thus elevating the status of the male body and male beauty. The characters in Troy possesed a vainness for themselves, especially Achilles and Paris, through their bodies that was fitting to the time and is usually left out when retold by Hollywood. Why? Because nowadays, if a man cares too much about his looks then he's a metrosexual or a homosexual, yet its "natural" and accepted for women to be obsessed with their looks."