Thursday, February 7, 2013

On Silver Linings Playbook and the Continued Use of the Word “Slut” [no spoilers]

This was originally part of my Silver Linings Playbook review, but I separated it into this post both to leave my review a manageable size and to better emphasize here what I am trying to communicate.  If you are looking for my review of the film itself, you can read that here.

In Silver Linings Playbook Jennifer Lawrence’s character is referred to as a “slut” or “slutty” multiple times, even by her own character.  In fact, the film tries to say that she has a mental illness because of this behavior.  Since when did wanting and liking sex, and being honest about wanting and liking sex, become a mental illness for women?

As a man it always pisses me off in movies when some men are portrayed as molesters or rapists who simply haven’t gotten a good opportunity to attack yet.  For the same reason I don’t get why women stand for seeing members of their gender being called “sluts” in movies just because they have sex.  Even worse, some women not only don’t protest this, they perpetuate the use of the term that denigrates their own gender.  Yes, I’ve seen some men called “sluts”, but it is almost always in a joking manner, not a judgmental one.  (Actually, a phenomenon I’ve noticed in the last few years is men being called “perverts” for liking sex.  This film even does it.  It makes no more sense than calling a woman a “slut”.  That’s a discussion for another day, though.)

You might be thinking, “It’s not that she had sex that makes her a ‘slut’; it’s that she had a lot of sex.”  Well, “a lot” to one person is “not enough” to another.  Annie Hall had a funny scene dealing with this.  In fact, the truest definition I ever saw for the word “slut” is simply “someone who has sex more often than you do.”  In other words, before you hypocritically call someone else a “slut”, be aware that your behavior makes you a “slut” in the eyes of someone else.  Yes, even if you have been married forty years, have sex only with your spouse, once a month, in the bedroom, under the covers, with the lights out, someone out there thinks this is “slutty” because you are doing it for a reason other than producing children. 

If you think about it, we are all voyeurs, we movie watchers.  We sit in the dark for a couple of hours, peeking through a window into the lives of people that do not know we are watching them.  Personally, I think that’s why some viewers are made uncomfortable by sex scenes in movies – because it strongly reminds them that they are voyeurs.  I think people should take a long look in the mirror before they next try to judge someone else for their interest in sex.

Frankly, I’m sick of the term “slut” being thrown about in movies and real life.  It’s long past time for the attitude that women are not allowed to enjoy sex to be put to rest.  The world would be a lot better place if when two single people wanted to have sex with each other, they had sex with each other, instead of trying to repress it and taking their frustration out on the people around them, especially those that choose not to repress their natural feelings.


  1. Excellent point, Chip. It's the same with driving. Anyone going faster than you is a maniac, and anyone going slower is an idiot.

    1. Thanks. You're the only one to comment, so I guess everyone else disagrees with me, but doesn't want to say so. Oh well, I tried.

  2. I don't disagree with you! I really dislike "slut shaming." Why must we "call out" women who enjoy sex as being "gross" or "perverted?" Why can't women like sex too?

    I'm definitely in agreement here. In my increasingly crotchety, ranty, feminist way, I reeeeeeeeeeally hate instances where people use the word "slut" and all its judgmental negative connotations.

    1. Thanks. Sounds like we are both coming from the same place.

  3. I completely understand the point you're making, but here are my thoughts:

    You mentioned in your review that the film tries to establish that these two people have mental illnesses and they need love to cure them. One of the reasons I loved this film so much was it's ability to accurately and unapologetically expose viewers (many who probably thought this was another typical romcom) to mental illness. I have a few people in my family/extended family who suffer with depression and bipolar disorder, and the film gives a pretty realistic view inside the craziness--from the promiscuity aspect to the psychotic episodes.

    I think the film was trying to establish the fact that these two people were dealing with something that the average person may consider "weird or abnormal" and they both found comfort knowing that they understood what the other was going through.

    In regard to Tiffany's promiscuity, I also don't think the film was trying to say that "she had a mental illness because of this behavior." Moreso, she had this behavior because of her illness. This behavior isn't uncommon with depression, especially under her unique circumstances. I don't think she necessarily had sex because she enjoyed it, but used it as an escape or coping mechanism (her behavior when she initially invites Pat in shows this).

    I'm not advocating the word "slut" to be loosely thrown into a script, but it seemed to match the jargon these characters would use. I'm not sure if there would be another way to put it since these characters are so unique?

    Sorry this is longer than I thought! But it's great to have a review that isn't identical to every other review out there :)

    1. No need to ever apologize to me for writing too long a comment. I enjoy people who communicate. Thanks for your perspective on how the film showed mental illness. From what you've said about your experiences with people close to you I can definitely see how this film would have had the impact on you that it did.