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March 15th, 2010

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03:12 pm - Movies Good & Disappointing
Last night, Becca and I watched The Bourne Identity, and were exceedingly impressed. When it came out, I assumed that it was just another super-spy action pic, and given the era, I assumed it was likely to be fairly right-wing. I was completely wrong on both counts. It oddly felt far more like some of the classic paranoia spy films of the 1970s, like Three Days of the Condor or The Parallax View. It was also notable for having far less cinematic special effects than most modern thrillers, and for having an impressive amount of quiet, which is a daring and nifty decision in a modern film. It told the story using visuals far more than many films, but also had excellent dialog, in large part, because Matt Damon's co-star was Franka Potente, the excellent star of Run Lola Run - had I known she had a major roll in this film, I'd definitely have watched it earlier. It was excellent to see a film that avoided the trap of having non-stop action and actually worked on developing character and mood, and also one which paid attention to the female lead and treated her as a real character.

After seeing it, Becca and I both considered the next two films, but will likely not watch them. I saw that the other 2 films had a different director, and so was dubious, so I read the Wikipedia entry for the next film, looking for the obvious issue, and there it was – near the beginning of the next film, Franka Potente's character is "fridged", to motivate the action for the rest of the film. I am impressively tired of female characters being considered disposable and only of use for motivating male characters into action.

My disappointment about what I'd read about the next film got me thinking about this excellent essay that I'd read about feminism and Joss Whedon and one reaction I've seen to this essay. The conclusion of this article is one I completely agree with – Whedon is definitely a feminist, but he is also one whose feminism is somewhat outdated.
From a post-structuralist perspective, Dollhouse isn’t feminist because it presents a world in which sex will never, ever change. The structure we’ve got now is all we’ll ever have, and not even the end of the world will do a lick of good to fix it. That doesn’t mean Whedon’s a misogynist, or a bad feminist. It just means he’s a bad post-structuralist. His feminism is old-fashioned. And if that’s really the world thing you can say about him, he’d probably take it.

The reaction to this essay that I also sadly agree with, is while Whedon's feminism is somewhat out-dated, it's considerably less outdated than the vast amounts of conscious and unconscious misogyny that infest most TV and even more films. It's 2010 for gods' sake – I'd really like to be able to reliably assume that most films and TV shows will treat female characters are something more than plot devices &/or accessories for the male characters. Some films, like The Bourne Identity manage this, but far too many don't.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 15th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
The problem being that, as far as I can tell, the number of people who are at that kind of level of feminism is less than 5%, and possibly less than 1%. There is still a large chunk of people for whom first stage feminism would be a nice change, and a majority (or close to it) for whom second stage feminism is an odd idea that doesn't chime with their view of reality.

And the problem is that critiquing from the position of third-stage feminism can cause negative interactions with these people, and cause them to feel that this feminism is such an extreme thing (distance so far away as it is _from their position) that they cannot be involved with it.

I'm not sure what to do about that, to be honest. Trying to change society quickly seems to frequently cause regression - at least initially. I can't see it taking less than three or four generations to actually get to a stage where the kind of feminism you would like is anything like mainstream.
[User Picture]
Date:March 16th, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)
The next two Bourne films aren't as good, and I think you hit on a large part of the reason why, there. I would also say that Bourne Identity has dramatic elements and...humanity, for lack of a better word, that aren't present to the same extent in the sequels. I would by no means say they are bad films, I love them both for what they are, but I think you're right that you'd be disappointed watching them.
[User Picture]
Date:March 16th, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
I didn't know that about the Bourne movies, either good or bad, and I agree that it's just - really disappointing.
[User Picture]
Date:March 16th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
I joked that Bourne Identity is actually the sequel to Run Lola Run. It really made the film that Franka's character was equally as strong and important as the male lead, and did so without being turned into an action girl or a hostage.

We have to cherish films like the Bourne Identity, because they are going to be rare. Progress in feminism is very much a process of "one step forward, 9/10ths of a step back, and then someone misinterprets things so we step to the side for a while" As long as people can get power and wealth from non-feminist attitudes progress will be slow. But I have faith that it is occurring, and will continue to do so.
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2010 02:36 am (UTC)
I like the second and third Bourne films, and saw them as being concerned with Bourne trying to hold onto his whole humanity, rather than the violent role created for him. While I resent good characters being "fridged" (hell, I'm still mad about Babs Gordon getting paralyzed), I did not have a negative reaction to the Bourne films. It didn't seem gratuitous, but rather, sadly almost inevitible given the setup of events. I did not feel the dead heroine became absent or unimportant, whose death served mainly to harden the hero. Rather, I think the pain of loss shows through and ultimately, I feel, made for some very fine cinema. I can barely remembers some of the Bond girls, but Bourne's lost love will always be walking on the beach in my mind.

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