02 June 2011

Don't "Leave a Message" (Review)

I was excited when I first heard about Leave a Message: A Women's Surf Film (free download). But I found it disappointing, the welcome spotlight on female surfers overshadowed by their blatant objectification.
Judged purely as a surf flick, there's nothing special here. It's a series of speechless music videos strung together, each focusing on a single surfer: Malia Manuel, Coco Ho, Monyca Byrne-Wickey, Lakey Peterson, Laura Enever, and Carissa Moore. The short film is devoid of any shots of paddling or dropping in, and even omits most wipeouts in favor of repetitive riding footage. (Smack the lip, cutback. Smack the lip, cutback. Yawn.) But that's no different than most surf movies. Carissa's portion is most enjoyable, as she seems to flow with the waves.

One is left with the impression that surfing occurs almost exclusively in places where the water is warm enough to wear a skimpy bikini. Occasionally the girls cover up with a competition rashguard and there are a few shots of Lakey in a fullsuit, but their skin is otherwise uncovered to the maximum extent possible in a general-release movie. Which means this film is not about the surfing so much as it is about sexy young female bodies, model-types who happen to surf well.

I guess I shouldn't have expected much else from Nike. Like the rest of the surf industry, they're out to sell stuff, primarily clothing, to people who don't surf but want to appropriate our supposed mystique. And sex sells. So if they can find some hot girls who surf, why not use them to sell bikinis and shirts? I'm not saying that these women aren't good surfers (they are), but I'm quite certain that if they were older, less lithe and not so pretty, they wouldn't be in this film, even if they surfed much better. And clearly Nike's not too interested in their surfing. Carissa's bio on the Nike 6.0 website doesn't even mention her unprecedented 11 NSSA National Titles.

As longboard champion Cori Schumacher points out in her post "Proliferating Stereotypes for Profit":
The current image (long hair, athletic, slim-but-not-too-slim, flirtatious and heterosexual, always smiling, younger and younger, sexy and skin bearing) continues to feed into the status quo for female athletes that emphasizes ability as an accessory to beauty. It is unchallenging to the dominant male sexual economy and it is fueling the current re-emergence of the sexual objectification of women in surf media.
Leave a Message is being touted in some circles as a leap forward for women's surfing, but it seems to me like a step back. I'd like to get to a place where women, in surfing as well as life, are judged and promoted based on their abilities and accomplishments instead of their bodies.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 02, 2011

    haha..and what about "Maya Gabeira: “I Feel Sexy Exposing My Body”: