Strong female characters are not the norm in Hollywood, but if you thought of one name that would use his directorial clout to bring a few more of them to the world, would it be Zack Snyder? The same man who was lambasted for being sexist after 300 is now being praised by his actresses for loving women and creating the best possible roles for them with his new movie.
And STILL, nothing in this article suggests female empowerment. The author seems to have no idea what feminism is, or even what he’s arguing outside of “woah dude, this movie looks awesome, there’s like samurai and naked chicks and shit”. Sucker Punch star Carla Gugino seems like even she doesn’t know what she’s talking about:
“Women are always looking for layers because women are complex creatures. For this movie, you don’t have to be just one thing. For men in action, you can be all things, but for women people see that maybe she’s dressed sexy so maybe it’s not empowering. It’s a tough line, but the truth is that women can be all of those things,” said star Carla Gugino.
The author also writes these scintillating accounts of feminism/female empowerment: Sucker Punch features a fetishistic world of beautiful women in all states of dress and undress existing in the mind of a young girl (Emily Browning) in an instution who is trying to mentally escape her floor-scrubbing existience.
It looks huge and beautiful and awe-inspiring and they’re are sexy women kicking massive amounts of Dragon ass. All the ingredients of a balanced diet.
and my personal favorite, Carla Gugino sat with her hands folded and cleavage holding court on its own while Jena Malone, Vanesse Hudgens and Emily Browning all spoke about longing for complicated female characters to dig into while recognizing the challenge they faced.
Count the typos, misnomers and run-on ideas above. It’s embarrassing. His entire article is like this. And I still don’t get how this film is at all empowering to females. Apparently, though, female empowerment is “sexy, complicated female characters in various states of dress and undress kicking dragon ass with samurai swords, cleavages holding court on their own”.
I think I’m going to be sick.
If this writer, Cole Abaius, is any indication of Sucker Punch's demographic, then I'd say this film is about as far from feminist as it can get; and those who choose to review it as such need a lesson in what “female empowerment” means.
Down Terrace is a darkly comic British thriller. If you want to show the government that UK Film matters, go see it. Sign the petition to Save the UK Film Council while you’re at it; http://tinyurl.com/saveukfilm
Elif Ceylan (born 1995) is a Swedish voice actress. She provided the voice for the lead character of Eli (played by Lina Leandersson) in the widely acclaimed 2008 film Let the Right One In. Late in production, it was decided that Leandersson’s voice would be replaced by a darker voice, because the character was supposed to be 200 years old, as well as in reality male (which is only alluded to in the film). Ceylan was chosen for her less feminine, more androgynous tone. Sound designer Per Sundström stated the her voice also made the character more threatening.
I do want to say, this article does raise some very very legitimate points, such as the fetishizing of sex/violence and sexual violence and how horror films feature a horrible and gross amount of violence against women, and that a “strong, independent woman” in the male gaze is a woman who slaughters her oppressors in skintight clothing. But my agreeing stops there.
I wouldn’t call Tarantino a feminist at all, but I would argue that his female characters are strong and deserving of victory. Articles like this frustrate me, because once again I’m seeing a trend of a man being the enemy just because he dresses his genre-oriented female characters in short-shorts. Yes, Tarantino’s female characters are often fetishized, but so are his male characters - they are violent and often daft, or downright evil. Punishment is quick and gratuitous. And yes, modelesque girls with guns are a distinct subject within the male gaze, but a strong woman is a strong woman (take Besson’s La Femme Nikita or Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix), regardless of whether or not men are staring at her.
Emma Wood, author of the article, herself says that she isn’t much of a cinefile, so I wouldn’t expect her argument to take into account that Tarantino is, above all else, a stylist and an homagist; all of his images, all of his characters and stories, all of the violence is taken from the exploitation films that inspire him. His work is the work of a cinefile. As someone who is also really really into film, I almost want to shrug off the author’s argument purely because she admits to not knowing much about film, yet is criticizing the work of a man whose entire career is based on his knowledge of film. But I digress (and digress and digress).
Here’s another one of those articles that shames men for putting women in itty-bitty clothes and having them gun people down in fountains of gore and vengeance. If you stop there, yes - rampant misogyny. If it’s rape-revenge, that’s even worse. But I’ve noticed a few things about Tarantino films that make me think that maybe he isn’t the pig these UK femi-activists think he is:
Gang warfare - more than anything else, Tarantino loves a good shoot-out. Every single one of his films involves some form of violent partnership, gang activity or hierarchy. These are often also decidedly gender-specific, highlighting the differences between the sexes; Death Proof is an obvious example of female camaraderie, as is Kill Bill, and Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction focus on male partnerships. Natural-Born Killers showcases a male-female partnership, tying desperate love with desperate crime.
Victim dignity - have you read a Frank Miller comic book? Frank Miller is about as misogynistic as a man writing comic books can get. “Whores” this, “whores” that, “more ass” here, “glorious fuckin’ tits” there. Yet in Sin City, you almost get the impression that the prostitutes are the tightest group of cutthroat women in the world. They protect eachother and their territory, and everyone’s afraid of them. They have weapons and street smarts. They don’t take shit from nobody, ‘cause they know pain. Gogo Yubari kills the man who killed her family and took sexual advantage of her in Kill Bill II. The girls of Death Proof turn the tables on their perverse tormentor and curb-stomp him. High five! Tarantino allows his women to have their revenge. Yes, blood and guts is another fetish, but I personally love blood and guts, as do most of my female cinefile friends. Gimme more! Shower in that blood fount, grrl, you deserve it. (again, though, this is completely discounting rape-revenge)
"Camp" is not the enemy. I don’t look at Rocky Horror and think that it’s making fun of vanilla couples in bad situations, nor do I look at Hedwig and the Angry Inch and see Hedwig cast in a negative light. True, there are films out there that are much blurrier (and much more inappropriately gratuitous) than others, but I do not see camp as the enemy to a story. It’s a style choice that aids in its telling, though in that style more serious themes are often lost, which can make the subject appear belittled or fetishized.
Genre studies - Tarantino’s work pays homage to a wide range of film styles: westerns, exploitation, film noir, melodramas, screwball comedies with snappy dialog, thrillers, Japanese samurai films, the French New Wave, Hitchcockian suspense, and heist films. With the exception of perhaps parts of the French New Wave, none of these genres (especially during the Golden Age) were particularly feminist at all. I feel films like Kill Bill and Jackie Brown are a definitely improvement on the typical action film mentality that the men save the women, and that all women are are love interests and secretaries (this article does a pretty great job of breaking down Kill Bill into its separate influences). And in my opinion, there is no such thing as a dehumanizing or defeminizing “style”, only intent and content.
To quote Wood in the article above, "…I don’t believe women are empowered by lap dancing [and] porn… and heartily recommend that any woman who really wants to be empowered should get out on the streets and do some activism…" But I see the International Union of Sex Workers doing both, along with the sex-positive feminists and third-wave feminists. Sure, I personally don’t feel empowered by strippers, but I feel any woman who goes out and truly satisfies herself - especially in the face of adversity - deserves praise. Sex is not a dirty thing, nor is it a construct of the patriarchy. It’s time to start understanding the choices of sex industry workers instead of projecting daddy issues onto them.
And again, just because a man is directing and the film contains sex and/or violence, doesn’t mean it’s exclusively aimed at a male audience, or that he’s exploiting women; look further into the content. A female director isn’t automatically going to be feminist or female-empowering, either.
I see Tarantino as someone who definitely gets his rocks off to violence, and finds great humor in pushing peoples’ buttons. I don’t revere him as a writer, but the man’s got a way with dialog and a story, and I firmly believe that any womanizing or sexism in his films comes from a studied and appreciative observation of exploitation in film.
Or maybe I’m projecting. Maybe he’s just a right awful bastard who makes trash films.
I feel I’m leaving things out or missing certain points, so please discuss this with me. What’re your thoughts?
Yes, hate sex seems to be common amongst vamps on TB. And yes, in the beginning she eggs him on. Yeah, vamps can withstand more than humans. But after the neck twisting, Lorena was spitting blood and had a facial expression that read of pain and alarm to me. Whether you are right or not about this being consensual, it's ambiguously presented. And if you were a victim of sexual violence watching it, it was an extremely upsetting experience. You expect violence and sex when you watch the show, but not this level. It went over the line into gore and, if not rape, then certainly something close to it.
It doesn’t matter what Lorena did to provoke (as if you can /provoke/ someone choosing to fuck you while committing horrible acts of violence on your body) Bill in my eyes. This is about what the writers, producers, directors, and others chose to present to the audience.
I definitely understand where you are coming from - and believe me, I do not take sexual violence lightly, nor would I ever belittle a victim of sexual violence - but I read it as something else: ecstacy. Lorena is a sadomasochist of the body and mind. To have Bill treat her like that was, as I saw it, the ultimate pleasure. She tells him she loves him, and then afterwards actually becomes angry when Bill refuses her the acknowledgment of passion. This was her one way to possess Bill, and until he pushes her out of the room, she was confident that she had.
What True Blood’s production team “chose to present to the audience” was a perverse act of anger. It was not, however, rape. And I do, indeed, believe that “make love to me” is a blatant invitation for sex. If I used the word “provoke” in my original entry however, I apologize, because you are right - one cannot provoke sexual violence.
Perhaps I am confused on what you’re trying to say. You say it isn’t rape, but it is particularly alarming to victims of sexual violence. This seems like a very subjective statement, which I am completely sympathetic to, but it does not lend itself to the analysis of “why”. Why was that scene deemed appropriate for television? Why did they choose to write it in the first place?
To me, this scene is very important in terms of Bill’s character arc. His facade is cracking, and he is turning into the monster that Lorena wants him to become. I do not believe there was any ambiguity in this scene whatsoever. Bill is not without fault for using penetration as violence (and vice-versa), of course, but I feel his punishment is equivalent to his actions.
And I dunno about anyone else, but I definitely expected this sort of violence to happen at some point, whether or not it crossed any personal lines.
(Thank you so much for writing me, by the way. I may disagree with you, but I feel this is a very important subject to discuss.)
I feel the people commenting on the article have a much clearer idea of what they are watching than the writer of the article herself, but it is an interesting debate nonetheless. Personally, I disagree with the writer 100%. Not all violence unto a woman is “violence against women”. The character of Lorena, main character Bill Compton’s sire, is used as an example of a rape victim in the latest season’s Episode 3. Do any of you guys watch True Blood? I’ll set the scene real quick:
Lorena’s got it bad. For over a century, she’s toyed with her progeny, attempting to break him to her will, exposing him to the torments of eternity in the cruelest fashion possible. She has fed on Bill’s misery and deigned to possess him entirely, to isolate him from human existence; one could call her the “psycho ex-girlfriend”, extra extra extra emphasis on “psycho”. So psycho, she’s tried multiple times to arrange a public slaying of Bill’s current love interest, who is a human, and make Bill watch. All to make him suffer, all to make him say that he is hers. In recent episodes, Bill has been abducted and kept captive by the vampire king of Mississippi. He wants Bill to help him take over Louisiana, and Bill really has no choice in the matter - his lover’s life is at stake. Lorena, who serves the king of Mississippi, sees this as a perfect time to take advantage of Bill’s inner turmoil and force him to tell his girl that he never wants to see her again (last season closer, he proposed to her). She even gets in on the phone call, making it seem like Bill went to her voluntarily. Weepy sadness etc etc.
So Bill gets mad. Very very mad. And here’s my main discrepancy with the article: the author refers to hate sex as another term for “rape”. But hate sex isn’t rape. Hate sex. Is not. Rape. So when Lorena and Bill have very violent hate sex as only the regenerating undead can, Lorena is somehow the victim when she’s egging Bill on, when she’s telling him she loves him to get him even angrier, when she revels in how passionate it was afterwards. The author seems to miss a very key component of Lorena’s character: the woman is a sadomasochist.
So suddenly, sadomasochism is violence against women. It doesn’t matter if the sex is consensual, if words of love are exchanged, or if the aftermath is that of satisfaction (which, actually, none of the above applies to Bill - does that mean he was raped, too?) - any violence against a woman is violence against women and therefore, should be condemned.
This isn’t feminism. I see this as closer to victimizing females who are actually striving to keep victimization out of their sex lives. I’m of the school of thought that a woman can be on top even when she’s underneath, that a woman can choose how she wants it and where, that a woman can take a blow in the heat of passion and enjoy it. Sex-positive feminism. Because I will never believe that the simple act of penetration is an act of violence and male dominance. Never, ever.
So tying this all back to True Blood, I’d like to point out a couple things:
There is a ton of sex and violence in True Blood. There have been scenes of male violence against women, and all of these scenes have justifiable places within the story, and there is no question that what the viewer is seeing is evil. The offender is always punished. There have also been scenes of female violence against men - last season was one big orgy of female violence against men, and the woman was most certainly identified as evil - and consensual violence, at the pleasure of both parties. I feel True Blood takes an extremely calculated approach to its violence, making sure the lines between rape and hate sex are very very clear; it may be HBO, but there is no way a pro-rape sentiment would ever fly on any cable channel.
While I am very aware that the gender of the author doesn’t matter, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire novels is a woman, and is very aware of how her work has been adapted to television. In fact, a couple of her female characters have been changed to become stronger - Tara, the second lead female character, went from a minor caucasian friend to an angry, headstrong, black best friend. Honestly, I see all of True Blood’s female characters as prominent and strong. The ONLY problem I have with the adaptation is that Sookie Stackhouse was originally a size 8-10, short and curvy and not particularly “hot” or “sexy”; Ana Paquin is slender with ample assets and is immediately identified as both “hot” and “sexy”, despite her homely persona. I liked the idea of a girl my size being the star of a show like this. Too bad, oh well, maybe someday.
But I could go on for hours about how poisonous female victimizing is in the feminist community. My main point is, this author has taken very distinct and important moments of True Blood - the violence, the female blood junkies, the sadomasochistic tendencies of sexual creatures - and analyzed them completely out of context. The parallels she draws between stereotypes and sex crimes are also off the mark.
“Harold, it’s Bateman, Patrick Bateman. You’re my lawyer so I think you should know: I’ve killed a lot of people. Some girls in the apartment uptown uh, some homeless people maybe 5 or 10 um an NYU girl I met in Central Park. I left her in a parking lot behind some donut shop. I killed Bethany, my old girlfriend, with a nail gun, and some man uh some old faggot with a dog last week. I killed another girl with a chainsaw, I had to, she almost got away and uh someone else there I can’t remember maybe a model, but she’s dead too. And Paul Allen. I killed Paul Allen with an axe in the face, his body is dissolving in a bathtub in Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t want to leave anything out here. I guess I’ve killed maybe 20 people, maybe 40. I have tapes of a lot of it, uh some of the girls have seen the tapes. I even, um… I ate some of their brains, and I tried to cook a little. Tonight I, uh, I just had to kill a LOT of people. And I’m not sure I’m gonna get away with it this time. I guess I’ll uh, I mean, ah, I guess I’m a pretty uh, I mean I guess I’m a pretty sick guy. So, if you get back tomorrow, I may show up at Harry’s Bar, so you know, keep your eyes open.”—Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000), directed by Mary Harron
Though I don’t necessarily agree with the viewpoint that “men get all the jobs” purely because they are men (and the author’s writing makes me cringe), these two articles do raise some interesting points in terms of women looking to become directors. Let’s see more ladies doing the director thing!! All about it!!
Speaking of which, if you guys aren’t already, I highly suggest following this girl and, if it’s within your means, helping her out. Sara Crow is the future of female filmmakers - going out and making it happen, DIY like it’s the only way. She’s IT. She’s also looking for crew for the Bomb The Music Industry! tour. Check it out here.