The Fifth Element - Born Sexy Yesterday Video Esssay

Every film genre has tropes, recurring themes or elements that sometimes help define the kind of movie we’re watching. They can be portals in the sky, training montages, the final girl, or as a new video essay called Born Sexy Yesterday explains, a naive but mature, sexualized female character with the mind of a child.

Jonathan McIntosh, aka Pop Culture Detective on YouTube, put together this video essay to explain a trope that you might not have even realized was so prevalent in sci-fi. But it’s right there in movies such as TRON: Legacy and The Fifth Element, not to mention other sci-fi-esque fantasy movies Splash or Enchanted. Watch the Born Sexy Yesterday video essay after the jump to see what we’re talking about.

You might think that 18 minutes is a little long, but there are some compelling points made about the reason this trope exists. The video essay proposes that these kinds of female characters are used to cater to a fantasy of innocence that male characters consistently desire on film. Plus, it also gives the primary male character the chance to be the savior or quintessential teacher for these women who otherwise wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.

If you think that this video essay is just nitpicking and creating a contrived observation, try to think of movies that have the opposite dynamic where the female is put in the kind of role that Korben Dallas or Sam Flynn has in The Fifth Element and TRON Legacy. Though there are some that exists, they are far less abundant. And even when we look at those movies, which include titles like Big or Starman, the cluelessness of the male character is not played up sexually, but rather for laughs.

Of course, it should be noted that characters like Leeloo and Quora in The Fifth Element and TRON Legacy, and even Enchanted, come into their own and aren’t entirely dependent on men at every turn and make decisions of their own accord. But they can only do so after receiving proper instruction from their male savior, which is problematic for a number of reasons.

There’s a whole college thesis that could be written about this trope, but for now, this extensive video essay will have to do. Thanks to io9 for bringing it to our attention.

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