Pathetic new teen-movie Project X is released by Warner Bros. Pictures this week. The film shows a bunch of guys throwing a massive house party in the hope to increase their popularity at school. The party descends into violence, destruction and street rioting. All this is immensely cool, apparently.
In my review (which you can find in the new upcoming print edition of The Edge) I gave the film a one star rating on the grounds of its moral reprehensibility, intensely boring story (there practically isn’t one) and badly written script.
After I came out of a preview screening of the film, I was close to speechless. I was shocked and appalled by its representation of women, or, as they are in this film, teenage girls. Project X marks a new low for Hollywood. Leering misogyny and the objectification of women isn’t a new thing, but there is a worrying new trend in films aimed at teenagers to portray them simply as sex objects. Films such as Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshal, The Hangover, Sucker Punch and The Hangover Part II have championed this form of entertainment. Occasionally, perhaps when a fleeting sense of morality kicks in during the scripting stage, the screenwriters give us a sympathetic female character in a desperate attempt to balance it out a bit. But the resulting effect often feels like watching a 40-a-day smoker preaching about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine while puffing on a Marlboro. As if The Hangover Part II wasn’t despicable enough, Todd Phillips is one of the men behind Project X, the most recent attempt to convince teenage boys that girls exist simply to perform blow jobs and allow themselves to be fingered or groped.
The filming style of Project X employs the ‘found-footage’ technique made popular by movies such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and the recent Paranormal Activity series. It’s used to good effect occasionally, but the most notable thing about the decision to film Project X in this way is the changeable nature of the character-helmed handheld devices the film was allegedly shot on. They seem able to capture footage from great heights, zoom all over girls’ naked bodies in slow motion and then dive underwater to watch them swimming around. The gimmick that the film holds so close to its heart (and marketing campaign) is thrown away when it comes to female flesh.
There’s an obvious reason for this. The makers know their market. Project X will appeal to the kind of men who buy those revoltingly sexist T-shirts sold by Topman. The guys who don’t want to confront the damaging affect such things have on gender politics in our society will try to excuse them as mere ‘Lad culture’. The term ‘Lad’ has now become the new speed-dial when trying to defend outdated and hateful attitudes towards women. The latest crisis-point of this phase came recently when a popular student website dedicated to this sort of humour closed down after inciting rape.
Things aren’t all bleak. Last summer’s blockbuster comedy Bridesmaids proved crude comedies could portray women as funny, caring, genuine human beings while having a good laugh. But movies like Project X serve as a chilling reminder that mainstream entertainment is still ready to celebrate misogyny. The BBFC rightly served it with an 18 certificate (largely due to the film’s condoning of extremely dangerous Class A drug taking), but this won’t stop impressionable young male teenagers seeing it. They may be kept out of their local Odeon but when the film is released on DVD they will watch it and no doubt proclaim it as ‘awesome’ and a ‘classic’. They will lap up the objectification of women, and our future society will suffer the consequences. This is a pretty grim state of affairs.
Project X is in cinemas from 2 March 2012. Barnaby Walter’s review of the film can be read here.