Jess Commons | Deputy Editor | Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Grimbsy Premiere: Can Sexism Ever Be Ironic?

The Grimbsy Premiere: Can Sexism Ever Be Ironic?

The Debrief: Last night's premiere of Sacha Baron Cohen's new film featured naked girls and looked like a PR stunt from the early 00s. But is it dangerous or just embarrassing?

This morning, as I clambered onto the tube, head down, earphones in, game face on, I ended up directly in front of a lucky bugger who'd managed to bag himself a seat, and a newspaper.

On the front of the newspaper though, was a scene straight out of 2002; something that looked like a PR stunt from a lads' mag back in the day. In fact, as it turned out, it was pictures of Sacha Baron Cohen's new film Grimsby, which he showed up to dressed in full character Norman 'Nobby' Grimsby and was surrounded by ten bikini and lingerie clad girls.

Obviously, this is a stunt, a joke, a further way for Sacha to poke fun at his character; a hard drinking guy with a brood of nine children and a wife who he lives with in a shitty part of town; a 2016 version of the Royle Family. The good people of IRL Grimsby have already had their bit to say on how offended they are by scenes of children drinking beer and people openly urinating in the street. But that's another story.

Full disclosure; I used to work for two major UK lads' mags. Both now gone from circulation. The reason being that, using such obvious sexuality to sell stuff in this day and age seems a bit erm, off. When I saw the picture from the premiere this morning (something that once would have been the norm at many album releases, product launches or other celebrity parties - remember this? - back in the day) I winced at it's unsubtlety. Ironic or not, I'm glad that my reaction proved how we're moving on from the days of wheeling out scantily clad women as props. And, this isn't just an issue of half naked girls - how often have you watched low-budget adverts for bingo sites and chocolate bars featuring a half naked, ultra bronzed young man and rolled your eyes?

So, should we feel grumpy at this outdated attempt to grab headlines? Nah. Consumers today are more switched on. We've grown up with the internet, we know a marketing ploy from a million miles away (most of the time) and the concept of 'stick a naked girl on it and it'll sell' isn't going to hack it anymore (unless it's like, an arty shot of a naked girl, but that's another argument). Obviously not in question here are the young men and women who work in promotions in this way; everyone needs to make cash and, hey, apart from the temperature, hanging out on the red carpet with loads of celebs was probably pretty fun.

In a world where people can access graphic rape porn with a few taps on their phone, obvious displays of attention grabbing 'sex sells' isn't what we need to be worried about, it's the more subtle and complicated breaches of feminism that we need to address; the slut shaming of women in hip hop, the aforementioned 'arty' works of Terry Richardson and co, the fact that 1 in 4 women on American college campuses have been sexually assaulted, people like Mens' Rights Activist Roosh V trying to 'reclaim the male identity', and the everyday incidences of so-not-OK sexism that we're still working to educate the world on.

In fact, the world of sexism is today is such a more murky and delicate mire to navigate that something as obvious as the Grimsby premiere seems positively unthreatening and perhaps, dare I say it, just a little bit sad. So... annoying, yes, but dangerous? Hmm. I'd say that we've got bigger fish to fry.

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Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons



Tags: Film, Sexism