Objectification in 'Star Trek: Into Darkness' Has Nothing to Do With Double Standards
So I saw people were getting shit for reblogging Benedict Cumberbatch’s shower scene because apparently it’s hypocritical to fangirl over Cumberbatch’s shower scene while saying that Alice Eve’s underwear scene is sexist.
Let me tell you why that’s a big pile of trash.
I love this explication. I wanted to add one more reason that the scene with Alice Eve is more blatantly sexist: it asks that the viewer take the role of a desiring male spectator. The scene with Eve has us following Kirk’s reactions to the possibility of seeing her body—“should I look? she asked me not to but I really want to…aw fuck it I’m gonna.” So when he does look at her—when, that is, we look at her—we’re implicitly giving in to that desire and looking along with him. This is just good old-fashioned feminist film crit: if there’s a male viewer in the scene looking at the sexualized woman, and the film viewer is also encouraged to look at the sexualized woman, then the viewer is being cast as a male spectator, and the visual desire is sexist.
So the question is, why did Abrams take out the shower scene? There were probably narrative reasons for it, ways it didn’t fit into the plot. But I also think it may have encouraged the idea of a differently desiring viewer in ways that made Abrams and/or his producers uncomfortable. There’s not another character in that scene looking at Cumberbatch showering, no one we might implicitly identify with. This leaves the viewing position open, and because the image is so blatantly sexualized, that body’s served up as a general object of desire, saying to the audience, “Delicious, isn’t he? Wouldn’t you like a slice of this?” But if they’re selling to a straight male audience, the answer would be an emphatic and panicked “no!” (As one film scholar put it, “…because the spectatorial look is so insistently male, the erotic elements involved in the relations between the spectator and the male image have constantly to be repressed and disavowed” .)
To me, this suggests that when fangirls or boys objectify the Cumberbatch scene—take it out, gif it, repost it, get off on it—we do something that resists and revises the presumed het male gaze. We’re creating a different viewing position. I for one am coming to understand that not only may objectification be inevitable in desire, but it may also be a good thing in terms of cultural politics. Not to mention tasty as fuck.
[1: Steven Cohan and Ina Hark, Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema, p. 4]