Saturday, 3 November 2012

37. I love films with visual flair

********Early update this week because my internet is getting switched over tomorrow******

I remember the first time I saw the film of Sin City. I went with Amanda and Gin and Freddy. All three of them loved it, and I hated it. I hated it passionately, from beginning to end.

Which is odd, because I’m very visual and I love films with visual flair, and there's no doubt Sin City has that. And it’s based on a comic book, and I’m a big fan of both comics and comic-based films.

When I feel a strong emotion like that which seems to come out of nowhere, I like to work out why I would feel such a thing. It took me some time with Sin City. I had to think about it.

In the end, I realised that I hated it because it was one of the most misogynist films I'd ever seen. I hated it because there was no place in it for me or for any other woman, despite its plethora of female characters.

How does Nancy, who was sexually assaulted when she was 10, make her money? How is she getting through law school? She strips. And she's in love with the man who saved her life, because when a man saves a woman's life it automatically inspires sexual desire. She's a fantasy. And Gail, the wild prostitute Bad Girl, she's a fantasy. And the lesbian parole officer, she's a fantasy.

The women perform sexual services, or they get saved, or they patch up the men. The only ones allowed to have the right to shoot people through the head are the prostitutes, who obviously are beyond the pale anyway because they have sex with men for money. Anyway, all you have to do is smack them around a bit and they'll fall in love with you, so the natural order can easily be restored.

There is one always-easy way to tell a film's political agenda. That's to immerse yourself in it and notice who you are becoming, whose point of view you're expected to adopt. In Sin City, you're never given a woman's eyes to look through. Not even second-hand. In Sin City, you're one of the men looking at Nancy. What is she thinking, night after night, dancing on that stage? What does she think of all the men who must hit on her? What does she see when she looks down at their faces? Did she really never learn any survival skills at all despite years working in a notoriously dangerous industry? We're never given the chance to know. She exists to motivate the men around her.

I think this is one of the main problems I have with sexism. The lack of dialogue. People not only don't listen but don't think they should listen. So you try and have a conversation, you earnestly try and put your point of view across, and their belief in a superior gender is so unshakable they assume you are lying or deluded. You can talk at them for hours and they will laugh at everything you say because the mere fact that you are even mooting men and women might have quite a lot in common is hilarious.

It's enough to make one want to shoot their kneecaps out with an AK47 just so they have to take you seriously.

Once I started watching films in this way, I discovered some interesting things. There are some films which one would think should be sexist which aren’t – Sucker Punch, for example. Sucker Punch has all the trappings of a sexist film. The fetishistic outfits and full makeup, the sexy girls. But still…it isn’t one. It shows a group of women working together to achieve a goal – a group of women who are so bonded that at one point one of them dies to save another member of the group.

In a sexist world, women can die to save men, or children. But to save another woman, a friend? Never. That would be a real, fundamental threat to the system. The role of women – the meaning of their life – is to compete for the attention of men. Not group together and protect each other with the band-of-brothers loyalty you've seen in every war film since cinema began.

I like Sucker Punch. I think Zack Snyder is a clever guy. I think it is a beautifully done (and deliberately provocative) undermining of both mainstream feminists, who were jumping up and down about the outfits and the brothel setting, and misogynists, who were pissed off to be forced into the position of identifying with the female characters and surely in a film with outfits like that you would expect the women to strip off and have sex with each other.

And all of that was masquerading as a piece of brainless eye-candy. That’s the kind of thing I enjoy very much, having a highly developed outsider mentality.

Sexism does not just damage women. One makes these assumptions about women; therefore one has to make the opposite assumptions about men. Where we aren’t allowed anger, a sexist world does not give men the opportunity to love. Where we are not allowed to be violent, men are obliged to be. Where we must feel the loyalty of a slave, men have to be cast as the master. These attitudes limit everyone.

1 comment:

  1. I wish more film reviewers watched with Alice's eyes.