Over the Christmas holidays Mrs Widders and I took ourselves to our local cinema to see two must-see-on-the-big-screen movies.
The town cinema used to be in one of those magnificent Art Deco buildings right in the middle of the ‘original’ part of town. That’s the part of town that dies when strip malls chew away at the abandoned lots in the twilight zone between Urban and Sub-Urban. The part of town that sees a revival (if it’s lucky) when someone fires up the Chamber of Commerce and a boutique renaissance revolution turns it into either a tourist trap or a community hub.
Either way, the old cinema building is re-purposed and a new one is built into one of those giant malls (although, occasionally magic happens and the old cinema building becomes a cinema again)
Our cinema (in the giant strip mall – have you ever noticed that malls in the country propagate sideways rather than vertically as they do in more built-up areas?) looks just like every other ‘plex’ I’ve been in both here in Canada and Australia (if it works, don’t change it) A bit like 99% of the interiors of fast food franchises the world over.
The up side of that is we knew what to expect, and the familiar was comforting on an icy winter afternoon.
So, on to the movies we saw … ‘Skyfall’ and ‘The Hobbit’ – SPOILER ALERT – mostly for ‘Skyfall’. Everyone knows how ‘The Hobbit’ ends!
Much has been made of the dearth of female characters in both these movies.
The Hobbit had to shoehorn Galadriel in to the screenplay just to have a female character who had anything to say at all!
Skyfall kills off Dame Judi Dench, in a classic stereotypical ‘Son kills the Mother in order to fulfill his Quest’, leaving the Father (Ralf Fiennes) to rule yet again. But hey, our Moneypenny returns as the secretary/assistant, via a failed career in the field, to satisfy the need for a recurring female character.
And don’t get me started on the nasty woman MP who grilled our Judi about the validity of the ‘00’ program. Thus allowing the lads on the review committee the opportunity to kick back and indulge themselves, with impunity, in the cat fight.
These things would bother me more, except for this. I never expected anything more from them. Both movies are franchises based on well established canon. The Hobbit is grounded in The Lord of the Rings universe that Tolkien created years ago when he wrote the books. Skyfall is just another Bond movie that’s all about, “Bond, James Bond”, exotic locations, fast cars, and big explosions.
Personally I’d love to see a woman cast as Bond one day – that’s why I write fantasy. But, so long as the current manifestations of these stories are with us, we continue to live within a global patriarchy, and the franchises continue to drag in gazillions of dollars at the box office, we will not see any permanent significant changes to the gender ratio.
Its all a matter of choosing our battles. Where do we spend our energy for the greatest effect both out in the world and within our hearts?
However, and this is the crux of the matter, I wouldn’t be as forgiving of a movie that sprang forth from someone’s forehead that was misogynist and/or gender phobic simply for the shock value/titillation, or because it was easier. This is the 21st century, and there are other options. (these tactics are useful if they want to make a statement, like, for example, the commentary surrounding what Lisa Cholodenko did and didn’t do with ‘The Kids Are All Right’# … but that’s a whole ‘nuther kettle of kittens …)
So … knowing all that, we chose to suspend our disbelief and enjoy these movies for the escapism, brilliantly filmed action sequences, beautiful scenery, CGI effects, and lots of explosions .. and it was wonderful to listen to Adele belt out the theme song from Skyfall. Dame Shirley Bassey couldn’t’ve done it better!
“If there’s a specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies” – Kathryn Bigalow, director, producer, screenwriter
# – I referenced ‘The Kids Are All Right’ rather than a SF movie because I saw it for the first time the other night and it’s fresh in my memory. (It was released theatrically in 2010) I’m not fond of seeing movies when they’re surrounded by a whole lot of kerfuffle. (for whatever reasons) It tends to influence how I respond to what I’m watching. I’d rather be engaged with the movie itself, not what others are saying about it.
“The Kids Are All Right’ trailer