It’s a slow news week at Body Impolitic, which got me to surfing around the blogrolls of blogs I enjoy. The Rotund led me to My Ecdysis, which in turn led me to this disturbing story by guest blogger Louisa Hill at The Bilerico Project.
Agnes Scott College is a women’s college in Decatur, Georgia. It’s been named one of the two most LGBTQ-friendly colleges in Georgia, and it’s mission is “to educate women to “live honorably, think deeply, and engage in the intellectual and social challenges of their times.”
It also makes ends meet by making the campus home to the barrel-scrapings of the American movie industry, and (no surprise!) that means juvenile objectification of women for “fun” and profit. This time, it’s (I kid you not!) Road Trip II: Beer Pong. (Agnes Scott is a dry campus.) (The original Road Trip is “rated R for strong sexual content, crude humor, language and drug use.”)
… students eating dinner were recruited in the cafeteria to be extras in the film’s derisive “Lesbians until Graduation” scene. The recruiter assured us that the only requirement was “acting like lesbians.” But in case we were interested, they welcomed same-sex “background kissers.”
Apparently the main premise of the scene involved the male protagonists stumbling upon the room full of these “making-out lesbians” (to presumably “convert” them?). When we expressed offense, the recruiter said she was warned about encountering uncooperative students who were “really into being women” (versus into being objects?).
Agnes Scott women already face the insulting stereotype of girls pillow fighting in silky pajamas. How are we supposed to be taken serious as an academic institution when the production team won’t let us in the library because they’re filming barely dressed women running around on our quad? We, with our backpacks and winter coats, surely would disrupt their intended portrayal of women.
And, of course, body image and fatphobia are not absent from this story:
“… the movie’s Craigslist ad states “primarily seeking White” and “Attractive Female Model Type” extras, valued at $7.17/hr (be sure to send in your weight!) … The [movie's] flier shows a headless white woman’s body, focusing on her large breasts, barely covered by a shirt that says “Nice Rack.” Her pelvis is in front of a triangle of shot glasses. The tagline? “Get your balls wet.”
The school’s justification for this abomination? “As our college president wrote in an email to the student body, ‘if we restricted ourselves to films that fully reflect Agnes Scott’s culture and promote our mission, we would drastically reduce film-shoot revenues.’”
But that story doesn’t hold water: “Our school is netting $30,000 for the filming of this movie on campus. This amount is just about one year’s tuition, which means that if only one student stopped coming here because of this film, the school would lose money.”
The Agnes Scott administration is caught in a nasty loop: without knowing the back story, it seems very likely that they started opening up the campus to film shoots as a way to make ends meet (many cities do the same thing) and now they have a budget line for film income, which they believe they have to meet every year. It saves them from having to strategize other ways to balance the budget (the degree to which colleges and universities have to bend and spread to bring in the money they need to educate our college students is one on a long list of national shames and embarrassments). The administrators tell themselves that the movies aren’t as bad as the students say, and that the things the students are being subjected to are either “just clean fun” or “one of those things you have to go through.” They don’t look at the details because they can’t bear to.
This time, though, maybe the students will force the powers-that-be into some of that “living honorably” stuff they claim to be imparting to their students. And if not this time, next time. I just hope the students have the strength to keep fighting until this grimy little battle is won.