Born Sexy Yesterday
Genres rely on conventions and tropes, and often those stylistic and narrative elements have an ideological aspect as well. Such is the case with what Pop Culture Detective has dubbed the Born Sexy Yesterday trope in this wide-ranging and well argued video essay. In short, the newfangled term refers to female characters that have mature, even sexualized bodies but more resemble a naive, innocent child on an intellectual level. Think Milla Jovovich’s character in The Fifth Element: a beautiful girl who comes into the world naked, only blessed with wide-eyed wonder.
In the video and on their website, Pop Culture Detective Agency does a great job of showing how this seemingly charming narrative convention is in fact a troubling male fantasy and the product of a patriarchal society. The video essay tends to skim over counterexamples (Jeff Bridges’ character in Starman is only briefly touched upon, although this film fits all the trope’s characteristics save for gender) but there’s no disputing its central premise. A broad range of examples from a variety of cultural backgrounds proves the omnipresence of this clichéd character. And while this gendered convention runs rampant in science fiction movies, the video essay also traces its roots and influences to other genres.