So now you’ve heard about the AWESOME time Layne and Elysia had at Slash Pines (by the way, I want to know where the name of the festival came from. Does it take place in a forest where all the trees look like this: //\\/\/\\///\?).
But what did the other Chickz do that weekend?! This is the question you didn’t even know was burning a hole in your brain until just now! Basically, we partied. Also, Lindsey and I, along with our friend Ben, went to see “Sucker Punch.” And Ashley and our buddy Spencer went to see “Insidious,” which made them unable to use the bathroom alone for at least four hours after the film. Also I went to Butler to watch them win their game against that one team, before they lost the final game on Monday against that other team. But most importantly, THERE WERE PARTIES IN THE STREETS. That was fun. While I was gone, Ashley wore a mink coat around Muncie.
BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT, BECAUSE THERE ARE ENOUGH CHICKLITZ HISTORIANS AND I DON’T EVEN OWN A CAMERA.
So let’s get down to business (to defeat the Huns #Mulan).
So yes, I went to see “Sucker Punch.” Did I know it was probably going to suck? Yes. Did it suck? Mostly. It was neat looking and I was entertained. That’s about all it had to offer. So why did I see it?
Okay, I genuinely like to support films that have women headlining them. And this one has, like, six women. You see, if these films fail, Hollywood won’t blame the director (unless it’s a female director) and they won’t blame the timing, or the quality of the film. They will blame it on the fact that “people don’t see films about women.” As someone who loves pop culture and who wants to see more Hollywood films that reflect a larger variety of experiences and treat women as equal to men, I feel a responsibility to support as many films about women as I can. I saw “Sex and the City” in theaters, and I’d never even seen the show, nor could I relate to ANYTHING about it (if it was called “Celibate in the City,” that’d be a different story).
I’ve given up on the hope of ever having tons of truly feminist films in movie theaters. I’d say about 5% of films about women have what I personally would deem a “feminist narrative.” And rarely, if ever, are those big release, blockbuster, popcorn flicks. So I had stupidly hoped that “Sucker Punch” might just be that film. By the time I went to see it, after the reviews were out, after it had a 20% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter, I basically knew what I was in for. But I still held onto that tiny shred of hope.
The problem with “Sucker Punch” is that it relies on that ol’ cinematic shorthand for feminism: GIRL POWER. You may remember the Spice Girls peddling girl power to tweens in baby doll tees about a decade ago. This is a bit different. Today, many filmmakers follow this easy guide to creating a Hollywood “Feminist” Film.
1.) Decide you need a “strong” female character in your film to balance out all the testosterone.
2.) Create a hot chick character.
3.) Give her a gun and/or some sort of fighting skills (bonus points for hot Asian chicks who are black belts in karate/ninja star throwing geniuses/samurai sword-wielding badasses).
4.) Give her at least one decent fight scene.
5.) Ultimately she’s saved/bedded by a male character, to show she has an emotional side. No one likes a heartless bitch. Besides, it’s not like the emotional core of the movie could be a man. No one likes a pussy.
Okay, Hollywood, unless you’re Quentin Tarantino, this probably isn’t going to work. The problem with the “girl power” formula is that the woman is almost always still a sexual figure, and she almost always has to have a love interest, and she almost always has to be shown to have emotions, and sometimes maybe she is ultimately saved by a man. Male action heroes are never required to do any of those things. Like, did the Terminator have a love interest? Did a woman save him at the end? Did he even HAVE emotions? No, no, and no. And was that perfectly okay? Yes.
“Sucker Punch” is a film that is selling itself as a girl power extravaganza. Yeah, there are girls shooting guns, throwing punches, wielding swords, leaping over gunfire, battling dragons, and flying planes. But they also do everything in skimpy clothing – lead character Baby Doll is actually dressed in a scanty schoolgirl outfit the entire time, looking like she just stepped out of a “Sailor Moon” cartoon. And the rest of their time (there are three different fantasy/reality worlds in the film) they spend as strippers/prostitutes at a seedy club run by greasy guy who at one point tries to rape Baby Doll (and it is NOT AT ALL the first example of sexual assault in the film). At the club, Baby Doll is prized for her virginity. She even uses her sexuality as a tool to attempt her escape, dancing to distract the men of the club while the other girls steal things they’ll need to get away. While we never see these dance sequences, they plunge us into the second fantasy world where the girls are under the command of – you guess it! – a man who gives them tasks to complete. This is where the majority of the action takes place.
The girls are constantly in a state of danger. For every moment of girl power badassery, there are just as many moments where the audience is forced to watch a girl being tortured or terrified or made to do something against her will. But that’s okay, because they can also shoot guns and punch robots in the face! It’s almost as if bad ass female characters can never be just that; they have to pay for or earn it with suffering.
Also, shouldn’t girl power apply to all girls? This film had a massive problem with race. There are three blonde chicks, one Vanessa Hudgens (whose character is at least named Blondie), and an Asian woman, Amber. Guess which one survives? (If you guessed “blonde chick,” you’re right!) Meanwhile, Blondie and Amber are easily the least developed characters, and they’re disposed of rather easily and quickly. Besides, why can’t there be a black character? We needed THREE blondes, but there can’t be just one character who is darker skinned than Vanessa Hudgens? If women in general have it bad in Hollywood, black women have it even worse. Outside of Tyler Perry films, and Halle Berry, they basically don’t exist.
I suppose Hollywood, like most things, is going to continue to be all about the white, straight man. He has the power, and will be most represented in films. Even when a film isn’t about a white, straight man, even when there are SIX female leads in a film, it will probably still manage to cater to men in some way or another. So, ultimately, would I recommend
“Male Gaze: The Movie” “Sucker Punch?” No. Perhaps just take comedian Patton Oswalt’s advice instead.
Luckily, I did try to think of a few films that I have seen that I would consider feminist, or at least really strong examples of films for and/or about ladies. Feel free to add your own favorite lady films.
- Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
- Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, 1995)
- Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)
- Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005)
- Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
- The Duchess (Saul Dibb, 2008)
- Bend it Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, 2002)
- A League of Their Own (Penny Marshall, 1992)
- Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007)
- Easy A (Will Gluck, 2010)
- Sophie Scholl: The Final Days [Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage] (Marc Rothemund, 2005)
- Aimee & Jaguar (Max Farberbock, 1995)
- Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
- Itty Bitty Titty Committee (Jamie Babbitt, 2007)
- Funny Girl (William Wyler, 1968)
- Elizabeth (Shekhar Kapur, 1998)
- Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2004)
*Sorry this post is late. I’m ashamed. My internet bugged out and I had a bunch of reading to do last night. It won’t happen again.**
**It’ll probably happen again.