'Booksmart': Why Olivia Wilde's Directorial Debut Is Empowering for Female Sexuality
There is a stigma surrounding women discussing sex and self-pleasure in various mediums of entertainment—luckily, this stigma is being squashed by films like Booksmart
Booksmart follows Molly and Amy, two overachieving high-school seniors who are about to graduate. They realise on the night before their graduation that they have been focusing so hard on studying and getting good grades that they have missed out on all the fun of high school, so they decide to let loose and attend the craziest party of the year.
I saw Booksmart yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my opinion, it is a perfectly-balanced journey of comedy and the strength of female friendship. It made me laugh more than any film has done in a long time, and also made my heart melt. But one of the things I liked most about it was the fact that the female characters, particularly Molly's character, are boldly open about their interest in sexual exploration, and they make crude jokes which you only tend to see in narratives which follow young men. The scene in which Molly and Amy are talking about masturbation, for example, is important as it shows that young women are just as curious about sex as men are. However, there appears to be a general stigma surrounding women discussing sex and self-pleasure in various mediums of entertainment. Luckily, this stigma is being squashed by films like Booksmart, as this movie reflects the reality that women can be just as talkative and open about sex as the male characters that we see in comedies such as American Pie, Superbad, and Knocked Up (to name a few).
Yes, Alyson Hannigan may talk about that "One time at band camp" countless times in American Pie, but Booksmart is a lot more sincere towards female sexuality in the sense that Molly and Amy are two characters that are a lot easier to relate to—they are highly intelligent, fun, quirky feminists who are bonding over their talks of sexual experimentation, and this makes it easier for female audiences to feel empowered by them. It also boldly says to those used to solely seeing men talk about masturbation that yes, women engage in self-pleasure, too!
(Warning, minor spoiler alert in next sentence) There is also one scene where Molly and Amy watch porn together, destroying the taboo that it is only men who take an interest in it. But what makes Booksmart believable is that it also does not over-do the sex talk to the point where it becomes overkill—but even if it did, why would this be a problem? Even if the dialogue was overtly sexual for shock/cringe value, it is not often that women have been extremely sexually explicit in films, and if it's funny, why shouldn't they be allowed to do it just like male characters do? Up until recent years, women have sometimes even been portrayed as being grossed out by sex and made to act like they are robots that only have the urge for sex when a man has the urge first.
In conclusion, it's very refreshing to see female characters in films saying lines that would normally only be expected to be heard spoken by male characters. In reality, women young and old talk to each other about sex, and women have been snubbed from expressing their sexual needs amidst a film industry teeming with male-dominated narratives. It's about time we have more inspirational female directors and writers such as Olivia Wilde directing brilliant films such as Booksmart, not only because women can relate to this film so much, but also because it encourages women to feel free to be more open about their sexuality (if they want to of course), rather than repressing it like films have taught us to for so long.
Booksmart is out in theatres across the US and the UK now—go see it if you haven't already!