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With Challengers and Saltburn, Hollywood Is Officially Hot Again

With Challengers and Saltburn, Hollywood Is Officially Hot Again


  • Hollywood is moving away from chastity towards Eroticism, with films like Challengers exploring deep, steamy relationships with modern twists.
  • Director Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, along with Saltburn and Poor Things, breaks old taboos with unique portrayals of sexuality and desire.
  • The love triangle in Challengers challenges norms, showcasing complex relationships and desires, redefining traditional tropes.

A brief glance at Hollywood’s latest and most discussed movies is enough to conclude that a new trend is emerging. While Marvel, especially, led a far-too-long-lasting season of missing chemistry and neglected relationships, a new era far away from chastity is finally unfolding. Filmmakers are daring to dive deep inside the exhilarating world of Eroticism once again, adding a welcoming, more modern, twist to the steamy film genre.

Director Luca Guadagnino’s recently released, highly acclaimed movie, Challengers, has not only been the main topic of conversation because of its lead actress, Spider-Man’s stunning Zendaya, but also due to its fundamentally steamy approach. Challengers is, however, not the first movie to break with obsolete structures and rather explore the depths of relationships again, since the two award-winning films, Saltburn and Poor Things, had previously set the trend featured in Zendaya’s movie.




Release Date
April 26, 2024

Justin Kuritzkes

What Is Challengers About?

Challengers renders an enticing story of twisted passions growing amid an unexpected love triangle. At the center of the events is former tennis prodigy and now trainer, Tashi Duncan, whose entire life seems to be a game. Following her calling to swing the racket from a young age onward and delivering a promising career, her life took a drastic change due to an injury. Art and Patrick, two best friends, are also set to make a name for themselves as successful tennis players. However, as they are both hanging onto Tashi with thirsty eyes, chaos is inevitable, and manipulation and the longing for victory on and off the field is crashing over the three of them.

Despite a brief relationship with Patrick which left Tashi and Art cutting ties with him, Tashi ends up marrying Art, and she puts all her effort into turning him into a widely celebrated champion. When he is stuck in a losing streak, Tashi signs him up to play a low-level challenger event so he can regain his confidence. However, it turns out that Art isn’t only left to fight against his own demons, but also has to face an insecurity from his past. Instead of a random opponent on the field, he is standing opposite his ex-best friend and his wife’s ex-boyfriend, Patrick.

Challengers tells a tale of lust and resentment, stripping its characters down to their core by revealing their deepest worries and desires and wrapping them into an alluring amount of sexiness. Control achieved through intelligence and sexuality depicts the core aspect of the film’s storyline, allowing Tashi’s intricate relationships with both men to unfold in compelling detail.

Hollywood’s Return From Chastity to Eroticism

Hollywood has seen a continuous change in trends ever since the introduction of moving pictures. With regard to the depiction of sexual content, the 1980s and ’90s are of particular interest and importance. During this time, Eroticism in film gained significant prominence, reaching an all-time high during the ’90s. Movies such as Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction had a massive impact as they set the mood for more erotic movies which still heavily relied on a thorough storyline. Sexual relationships, which were intriguing to the viewers and simultaneously carried a deeper meaning, such as the analysis of the male gaze, were unveiled on the screens, but it didn’t take long until the film industry saw another change.

With the arrival of the 2000s, the topic of sexuality and Eroticism was put back into a dusty drawer and the genres of epic adventure and animation took over. Slowly but surely, storytelling didn’t rely on steamy scenes anymore but much rather focused on creating thrilling new worlds and heroic quests. This lack of Eroticism in mainstream movies even stretched far into the 2010s. Leading the train of chastity was Marvel, as those movies are known for their missing chemistry between the characters and instead focus on action-packed fighting scenes.


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Many directors followed a similar sexless pattern, but with the current Marvel fatigue in full force and Sony’s desire to bring back the genre of rom-coms, erotic and steamy scenes are finally finding their way back onto the big screens. Filmmakers are looking to stir up the genres once again, exploring adult relationships in more enticing detail. Since there is a growing craving for on-screen romances, rom-coms such as The Idea of You or Anyone But You hit the nerve of time and resurrected the romance genre by also creating more interest through unconventional methods such as creating off-screen dating rumors.

Saltburn and Poor Things as Steamy Trendsetters

Frontrunners in the endeavor to bring back some much-needed spice to the world of film and TV are Emerald Fennell and Yorgos Lanthimos with Saltburn and Poor Things, respectively. These films make an effort to look at sexuality from a more modern perspective and simultaneously break taboos. Saltburn, for example, depicts women’s sexual encounters during their menstrual cycle. This is often frowned upon and, for the longest time, filmmakers refrained from even making periods a topic of conversation.

The scene in Saltburn normalizes and even worships the wonders of the female body, as the menstrual blood is directly shown and even interacted with. Furthermore, the films show a complex connection between masturbation and an overwhelming desire to be close to someone in the heavily discussed, famous bathtub scene.

Poor Things received critical acclaim for its unique, undoubtedly often disturbing depiction of the main character’s sexuality. Bella, a woman who is resurrected à la Frankenstein but left with the brain of her unborn child, has to relearn every characteristic life holds. Surrounded by men, her behavior is analyzed as she discovers her sexuality, but eventually uses her own sexual pleasure as a tool for female liberation.

Coming to the surface in Poor Things is Bella’s realization that she has control over her own body, and even in a world with patriarchal structures, what happens to her body is her own choice. Most importantly, this current wave of sexuality in film refrains from stereotypical approaches heavily featured during the ’80s and ’90s and instead explores a wider, significantly more open-minded range of sexual relationships.


How Challengers Redefines the Love Triangle Trope

Despite the steamy trailers, Challengers is not your average love triangle film. Here’s how they redefine the trope.

Hopping onto the same train of high-speed success is Challenger’s director, Luca Guadagnino, as he continues exploring the same trend of allowing Eroticism to reenter the chat. Challengers, just like Saltburn and Poor Things, depicts a constellation that is often frowned upon. The love triangle in the film has a unique twist, though, because while Tashi has a sexual relationship with both men, Art and Patrick also share an undeniable chemistry with each other. The sexual tension between the two men is palpable throughout the entire film but becomes particularly clear when Patrick, Art, and Tashi start making out until Tashi leaves the men to simply enjoy each other’s mouth.

The love triangle between Tashi, Art, and Patrick, but also various scenes in Fennell’s and Lanthimos’s movies, shows that desire can be shocking and something that might be difficult to share. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that even unsettling realities should be represented on-screen. To get an idea of what the love triangle in Challengers looks like, make sure to check out the trailer below. Watch Challengers in theaters.

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