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Tropes That Annoy Me: Pervy Cam

It's in every romcom. It sometimes appears when the Action Gal cleans up for some undercover espionage at some high-ticket gala. It's definitely there when the lead female in any procedural drama has a flashy new outfit.

The camera pans from her shoes, lovingly framing her torso, and cuts away within a few seconds of seeing her expression so the viewers can see the extended look of awe/appreciation on the person viewing her1.

That's just one trick of Pervy Cam. The other, more insidious one, is making certain that boobs, butt, or both wind up in the points of interest whenever a lady is in the frame. This leads to female leads, even initially-unsexy Action Gals not getting "headroom".

"Headroom" is a framing term that means that the character on screen is not at risk of having their head and face drift out of shot. As this tumblr post explains. When men are in frame, the most interesting thing is their face and what they're doing. When women are in frame, the most interesting thing is their bodies.

This post over here begins with an explanation of what the 'sweet spots' are and how they're not used to objectify women in Mad Max. And then this one explains Mad Max de-emphasised nudity.

So it is possible to have a naked woman on the screen and have her NOT be a sexual object. Likewise for fully clothed ones.

People tell me that there was no Pervy Cam in Batman Versus Superman, but I know that they had more than one Pervy Pan, and several butt shots, every time Diana Prince turned up in a slinky outfit.

Pervy Pans on men linger on their expressions so the audience can read their feelings. Pervy Pans on women flick away the instant the breasts move out of the sweet spots. Men get headroom. Women don't.

If the camera objectified men as much as it did women, viewers would find the results unnerving and wouldn't be able to say why. In fact, I challenge directors everywhere to reverse the camera treatment on their male and female leads. See what it does to audiences. See what it does to the movie.

Go on. I double-dog dare you.

  1. This is what I like to refer to as a Pervy Pan.