Picture this: You’re watching the MTV Movie Awards and it’s finally time for the “best shirtless performance” category. The nominees are read off, the envelope opened, and the winner announced. Imagine Jennifer Anniston (2014’s only female nominee) climbing the stage to awkwardly accept the award, not sure how to respond to the many cat-calls and shouts of “Take it off!” Just when you think it can’t get more awkward, one of the award presenters lends a helping hand by ripping off the winner’s shirt. Appalling, right? Entirely inexcusable.
Now imagine the same scenario, but take out Jennifer Anniston and sub in Zac Efron. That’s what happened at Sunday night’s award show. Is it still appalling?
If anyone in the audience thought so, it was difficult to discern among the mass of screaming women. Though there were those who expressed their disapproval via twitter, they were lost in the sea of those reposting shirtless pictures and videos of Efron.
In a world where we fight tooth and nail to condemn the objectification of women, little is said about the wild popularity of movies like Magic Mike, the idolization of Channing Tatum’s abs, and even the existence of a category like “best shirtless performance.”
As a culture we are finally adding credence to movements that seek to end the exploitation of women’s bodies. We laud efforts to invent new Barbie dolls—dolls that offer a realistic depiction of the female body and will, hopefully, stem the outpouring of self-esteem issues that have ravaged young women of this generation.
And yet we cheer for the removal of Zac Efron’s shirt. We repost the ordeal like it’s comical. We study the video as if women are exempt from lust.
Psalm 139:13-14, which says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” makes it obvious that human life is something to be regarded with respect. Most Christians acknowledge this principle in the important ways, but miss the subtle manner it’s violated in the objectification of a human being—male or female.
Did Efron seem to mind the whole thing? Not really. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.