sohotrightnow: ([buffy] like some soldier undaunted)
Jules ([personal profile] sohotrightnow) wrote2011-03-26 11:21 am

In conclusion, I stand by my "it's Inception but a lot less dull and about misogyny" assessment.

OKAY SO FIRST OF ALL. Like, I have already gotten into the habit of disclaiming just about everything I say re: Sucker Punch with an explanation of how this hits not only my narrative buttons, but my srs bzns trauma-related buttons as well. Plus it is actually a really fucking awesome action movie, objectively. So everyone should read my thoughts on this movie while keeping those two things in mind, that it's objectively a great action movie (which is a genre that not everyone likes) and that it hits so many of my personal buttons that it's hard if not impossible for me to really deal with this on an objective level just yet.

And as silly as this sounds and embarrassed of myself I am for saying this, I am not actually sure I can deal with a lot of criticism of this movie right now. Partly because a lot of the things I have seen complained about hit a couple of very deep-seated issue-related buttons for me, such that I end up taking criticism really really personally. To the point where, kind of hilariously, I have even been considering taking a few days away from LJ/DW until whatever initial discussion there may be has died down. Yes that is how ridiculous I am, w/e w/e I do what I want.

That said, [personal profile] inlovewithnight tells me that there has already been some stuff surrounding this movie in fandom that will enrage me, much of it from people who haven't even seen the movie! And, okay, first of all, leaving aside the deeper issues I have, this is not going to be to everyone's tastes, simply because it's very much a straight-up action movie ([personal profile] baked_goldfish and I agreed after last night's viewing that leaving aside the politics of it, this was quite simply one of the best action movies we'd seen in ages) and again, that's a genre that not everyone's into! So if you're not into action movies you probably will not be super into this. And as for the ~issues~, I will absolutely acknowledge that plenty of people have trauma that will manifest in ways that make this movie unviewable for them! But I would like to state clearly the other side of that coin, that it's possible for people's trauma to manifest in ways that mean this will be an extremely satisfying and, hell, therapeutic movie for them. Brains are complex! No two traumas are the same! We all deal with it in different ways and respond to it in different ways!

...oh god that was only supposed to be a few sentences of defensiveness. /o\ Long story short, I totally understand being critical of this movie, from a pure cinematic POV and from a feminist one, but I am not sure I am capable of dealing with that because of the ways that it resonates with me (I love action movies and also LOL ISSUES). I realize it is silly but that is part of the fun of being crazy. I hear people be like "but the costumes are gross" and I have to fight really hard not to yell YOUR FACE IS GROSS, SHUT UP, THIS IS FUCKING ART, I AM GETTING DEFENSIVE SO HARD I'M ABOUT TO BREAK MY MACBOOK FUCKING AIR!!!!!!! Yes, again, I completely realize this is irrational and hypocritical, but guess what, that is how the crazybrain works! W/E W/E I DO WHAT I WANT, at least I am working to confine this to my own journal! :D? :D?


More on the beginning. I'd noticed yesterday that Babydoll doesn't speak through the entire opening; in fact, the first of the girls to speak is Sweetpea, and she does so when she is acting out Babydoll's lobotomy onstage. (AND that is to say stop it, get that thing away from me, undo these straps and get me out of here, and then to talk about how she doesn't understand this, that it's not hot at all, it's creepy and gross to think that anyone would be turned on by it.) But going back even further -- the movie opens on Babydoll on a stage that looks like her bedroom, and then pans around and turns it from a stage into her actual bedroom. She doesn't speak for the entire opening, and even before the acting-out-the-lobotomy happens, when Babydoll first goes into the theater, what's happening onstage? It's a bedroom, with a blonde girl sitting on a bed. In the background, it's explained that the stage is used as a set for therapy, so the girls can recreate what happened to them, at which point, Babydoll locks eyes with the girl sitting in the bedroom set, and it's Sweetpea.

ALSO something about Blondie and Amber's deaths was bothering me after my first viewing, and first I was like "okay, something's off here, because this was all in Sweetpea's head, but when Blue kills them, Sweetpea is locked in the closet, so how does she know about it?" BUT! When Babydoll first says she plans to escape, in the dormitory, someone -- I want to say Blondie -- says something to the effect of "the last time anyone tried, three girls died". I don't remember the exact wording, but the key here is that three girls died. At which point it all fell into place: not only does she hold herself responsible for her sister's death, but she also blames herself for the other girls' deaths as well.

Sidebar: WHY THE FUCK have both the theaters I have been in found Blondie's death entertaining? At the midnight showing people freaking cheered, and last night people were laughing. LIKE WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK PEOPLE, UGH. [personal profile] quelle_surprise was like "yes, she ratted them out, but DID YOU NOT NOTICE THE CIRCUMSTANCES?" It was horrifying and such a statement on powerlessness in the patriarchy, on how you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, and even if you "play by the rules" (which, um, it was kind of forced out of her, first of all; it's not like she voluntarily went to them, so even that is a really powerful statement about how you're not really playing by the rules because you have any choice in the matter to begin with) you're fucked. That reminds me so much of this post that I am really going "huh" to this.

More on the costuming! Like, we were discussing them, and [personal profile] inlovewithnight said "they were just dancing the line of exploitation so furiously that I think they finally just obliterated it entirely". To which [personal profile] baked_goldfish responded "yes, the costumes were skimpy -- but also, they were tearing shit up," which is also key, I think. Like, sex as means of enforcing power is such a central theme in this movie that it seemed obvious, to me, that reclaiming sexuality would be a part of kicking ass and reclaiming agency. Plus, also, like, part of why I love Buffy so much is that she is allowed to be traditionally feminine and still be a hero. Like, Ripley is great, but she never really resonated with me the way Buffy and Sailor Moon did, because I had the same problem with her I had with a lot of the heroines of books I read, where I felt like the message was that in order to be a female hero who kicks ass, you had to eschew femininity.

And obvs it is not cool to be prescriptive about any kind of gender presentation, and I understand how refreshing the tomboyish heroines and Ripley are to women who don't feel particularly attached to traditional femininity! So I am absolutely not knocking those types of characters as important and valuable, because shit yes they are. But I was surrounded by stories where you either wore pretty dresses and were useless or you hated dresses and were a hero, and it got to a point in my childhood where I felt like, well, if I want to be a worthwhile woman I have to be a tomboy, and that is no more helpful than saying that every female hero has to kick ass in high heels and a push-up bra, so basically the "it's not cool to be prescriptive re: gender presentation" thing works both ways. Or, more eloquently, everything in the "gender: femininity" tag at Sociological Images. Especially, to bring this back to the movie, a quote from this post, about outside photographers' experiences documenting internment camps during WWII:
According to Sue Kunitomi Embrey the chair of the Manzanar Committee, [Ansel] Adams hoped to capture the despair of camp life in order to stir some public sympathy for Japanese Americans but was frustrated by all the primping and posing Japanese Americans did when he was photographing.


...I hope that images of smiling and fashion-conscious Japanese American women...adds to and deepens our appreciation of the small acts of feeling, creativity, and resistance that happen everyday in spite of huge limitations. In an act as seemingly trivial and trite as smiling for the camera, these women interrupt and take some control of the historical, political, and visual frames through which they're being viewed.
Emphasis mine, but yeah, basically I point to that and say YES YES THAT, ALL OF THAT.

ALSO, which I noticed this time, in none of the fantasy "mission" sequences are the attacking hordes using sex as a weapon, threatening rape or leering or whatever, and neither do the girls do any kind of honey-pot thing within the missions, using their costumes as ways of distracting people. For that matter, the enemy soldiers are steampunk WWI automaton-zombie things, orcs, and robots. They are never even presented as having any kind of human personality or sexuality. So on the one hand, yeah, why would they even need skimpy clothes, if we're not going to make that an issue? But sex as means of enforcing power is such a central theme that IDK, for me it made perfect sense. Yes, you can be sexy just for you; you are not asking for it when bad things happen to you just because you were wearing fishnets and displaying cleavage; you can be sexy -- you can be sexual -- and do it on your own fucking terms. And again, it is kind of impossible for me to be completely objective about this because LOL PROJECTING but I felt like within the context of the film it was actually perfect.

Which, discussing that before the movie I was explaining how I am having to give a loud and frequent disclaimer, in talking about this movie, that it hits so many of my buttons that possibly everyone should take my reviews with a grain of salt. And I said "yeah, I realized when I was getting defensive in drafting a post that I used the phrase 'maybe I'm giving Zack Snyder too much credit' and that's sort of where I said okay, I have to step back, because I seriously just wondered if I was giving Zack Snyder too much credit". But then we came out of it and [personal profile] baked_goldfish was like "THAT WAS AMAZING", and then said that she couldn't believe she was saying this of any director, let alone Zack Snyder, but clearly he needs to write his own movies all the time. So, you know, me projecting all over it does not exclude the possibility of it being legit good! She said it was one of the best movies she'd seen this year, and we agreed that it was the best action movie either of us had seen in ages, so. Plus [personal profile] redbrickrose pointed out the whole death of the author thing and reminded me that whether he meant it as male-gazey or not didn't really matter if I was getting that strong a reclamation of agency vibe from it.

And of course there's the "you have all the weapons you need, now fight" line, which, if all you see is the trailers, I could see having a problem with that because it seems like it's kind of victim-blamey taken in the context of the rest of what's going on, at least in the trailers? But what isn't clear from the trailers is that that line isn't meant for during -- it's meant for after. It's not about what you do when it happens to you, it's about recovering from the trauma and fighting your way past it. Which is wonderful, because yes, yes it is a fight. [personal profile] inlovewithnight said that for the first fantasy sequence she was kind of :/ and thinking "yeah, this is a pretty shallow empowerment fantasy" and then said she thought about that later and was like "...of course it was a shallow fantasy, that's the point: when you're in a world where you don't have any power, you need a fantasy where you have all the power." So, like, yes, from the trailers alone it's going to look like kind of a shallow Hollywood take on "empowerment", but that is basically the entire point, because that is what you need. In short, this movie is actually very conscious that its fantasy sequences look like shallow fantasy empowerment, and that is exactly what they are supposed to seem like, because this is not a movie about fighting hard enough to prevent them from victimizing you: it is about recovering after they victimize you.

...actually, looking at all of that, and my "the point is you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't" take on Blondie's death in particular, not only is this movie about the patriarchy and misogyny, it is even more specifically about rape culture. Which, holy shit, not only did a dude make an action movie about rape culture and make it awesome, that dude was Zack fucking Snyder. I am not sure what to do about all of this.

OH MAN I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS ABOUT THIS MOVIE, I CAN'T EVEN. Okay it is time for lunch. And then possibly I will bake something. IDK. Also, [ profile] burntcopper pointed me towards a streaming copy of the soundtrack. So if anyone wants to listen to that, just go here and scroll through the carousel until you get to it!

Ughhhh where are all the icons, I need them. ALL OF THEM. Maybe I will even try my hand at writing fic? IDK where to even start with it, though, because there is SO MUCH FIC that needs to exist for this movie.
helens78: A man in a leather jacket, seated on the ground, looks up hopefully. (Default)

[personal profile] helens78 2011-03-26 05:36 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm still totally interested in seeing it. Maybe this weekend I'll get to it! ^_^
anonymous_sibyl: A blue and white coffee cup on top of newspapers. (Coffee & Books)

[personal profile] anonymous_sibyl 2011-03-26 06:25 pm (UTC)(link)
I've been reading what you and 'Night have been saying about this movie and I am dying to see it. Off to moviefone!

[personal profile] baked_goldfish 2011-03-26 09:12 pm (UTC)(link)
One of the other things that I really really liked about it was that one of the realities was a brothel - and the brothel was awful and we were supposed to see it as awful. Everyone was a slave who hated being there, you never saw anyone actually have sex with any of the women, and yes, they danced, but we never really see them dance for the men. There is nothing for the male gaze, no nod to men who might want to see Babydoll do her amazing dance or anything else.

Also, re. Blondie's death, and actually Rocket's death as well, my take on it was that Babydoll and Sweetpea were the only real people out of their band of sisters; when Don Draper is talking to Dr. Gorski, they talk about all the drama Babydoll brought in the few days she was there. She stabbed an orderly, set fire to a closet, and helped Sweetpea escape, but there's no mention of other patients dying, and there's no implication that Blue did anything other than take bribes, forge Gorski's name, and probably rape girls. Which is bad enough, but I don't think we're supposed to think he killed anyone. I guess I thought Sweetpea had imagined the others as part of her fantasy, either in part or in full.
Edited 2011-03-26 21:21 (UTC)

Re: blanking out is too much work, so HERE BE SPOILERS

[personal profile] baked_goldfish 2011-03-26 10:19 pm (UTC)(link)
First one, she's got the mecha, second one she's flying a plane, third one she's flying a chopper

Tangent: this is why I can't fully get behind the "they're wearing skimpy clothes! Male gaze!" arguments. They're wearing skimpy clothes but you almost never see Amber's costume, because she's always in a mech or seated in the cockpit of a plane. And I think it's Blondie who takes the gunner position in the plane, right?

Anyway, yeah, I think there's an argument to be made that the girls are based on some kind of reality, but I'm not sure that it has anything to do with Sweetpea. Did you notice that the bunny on the mech is the same as Babydoll's sister's toy? That leads me to think that Amber has more to do with Babydoll than Sweetpea - or that Babydoll has something else to do with Sweetpea that's not immediately apparent. There are parallels between the cook trying to rape Rocket and the stepfather trying to rape Babydoll's sister, for instance.
fox1013: a quote from Melina Marchetta's "On the Jellicoe Road", picture from Lost (Lost - Trips and Journeys)

Re: blanking out is too much work, so HERE BE SPOILERS

[personal profile] fox1013 2011-03-26 10:37 pm (UTC)(link)

My assumption was that the girls were there, and they interacted enough to be stand-in figures in her fantasy, but weren't part of anything that happened: they were just pieces in the theater used to act out the drama.

Also, I am now not certain of what happened with Babydoll at all, because it kind of feels like the fact that her main issue was ACCIDENTALLY GETTING HER SISTER KILLED WHILE TRYING TO PROTECT HER, which screams "Sweetpea and Rocket" to me.
layangabi: (books)

Another reply Re:--SPOILERS

[personal profile] layangabi 2011-04-16 11:34 pm (UTC)(link)
...I wrote a previous comment that I had to delete because it was capslocky and ragey and unfair. But it does bother me that in a story where abused women band together, where they recover themselves through fantasy,
one intepretation being floated is that three of them were never real. In particular, that Amber, the only Asian woman in the group, the one who's depicted consistently as the one who flies them in and out of danger, the one who watches their backs, never had active part in their fighting back. Or that she was, at best, incidental.

It bugged me that Amber died. But it skeeves me she's being erased by the implication she wasn't real, and that she didn't play an active role in getting at least one of her comrades out.

Also: note to sohotrightnow. Hi! My partner and I saw the movie last night and she linked me to your review of the film. We loved it, we had the same reactions you did (although thankfully, no one at our theater cheered at Blondie's death) and wanted to read awesome meta about the film.
lizbee: (Random: The Pigeon is overstimulated)

[personal profile] lizbee 2011-03-26 09:20 pm (UTC)(link)

Although I'm increasingly convinced that I should see it by myself, 'cause damn, some of my RL friends are squee harshers.

Obviously pre-emptive squee is foolish, and I shouldn't count chickens, but honestly, any time I see the words, "You are a bad feminist if you like ___________" I'm queuing up and hoping I'll like ___________.
ide_cyan: (Default)

[personal profile] ide_cyan 2011-03-28 05:41 am (UTC)(link)
You all are making me want to *re*watch this movie. Except I'd want to be able to mute Blue whenever he's monologuing, because, urgh.
(deleted comment)

Re: Some thoughts:

[personal profile] ex_astaroth726 2011-03-28 05:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I never said you were wrong, I was just giving my own views.
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)

Re: Some thoughts:

[personal profile] kerrypolka 2011-03-29 11:37 am (UTC)(link)
majesdane: (Default)

[personal profile] majesdane 2011-03-29 12:21 am (UTC)(link)
I found this via a link from someone else, but just ... this is me slow-clapping for you and this entire post because it is brilliant and thoughtful and I am going to save this post and just direct people to it the next time I see someone complaining for all the reasons you mentioned here.

false_alexis: BAMFs of Sucker Punch (Sucker Punch)

[personal profile] false_alexis 2011-03-29 11:10 pm (UTC)(link)
I found you from a link from a link, and I just wanted to say how MUCH your post resonated with me! Because I have all sorts of problems with this movie, but at the same time it hit home so very strongly and I feel really protective and defensive and now I want everyone else to understand how awesome and reclaiming it can be.
nympholepsy: (Default)

[personal profile] nympholepsy 2011-03-30 09:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Got here from a series of links on LJ, just so you're not like wtf who is this person? but,
In conclusion, I stand by my "it's Inception but a lot less dull and about misogyny" assessment.
LMAO THANK YOU all my friends are gaga for Inception and I am just bored to tears by it. But I fucking loved Sucker Punch, for many of the reasons you outline here, especially about identifying with heroines who present themselves as traditionally feminine. Like, when people go on about how gross and degrading the costumes in Sucker Punch are, it feels like they're saying that about ME. Plus I don't think that, in the action sequences, the girls were dressed particularly revealingly? Other than Babydoll, they were all pretty covered up, that I recall. You'd just see a splash of exposed belly or some cleavage. I show that much skin when I'm working out, ffs. They also didn't just look ~*sexy*~, they looked tough.
egregiouslypink: (tv ⇎ gg ⇎ go and tell your white knight)

[personal profile] egregiouslypink 2011-04-02 09:18 am (UTC)(link)
Directed here from the above commenter, actually!

I just want to like... take this post and hug it because after seeing Sucker Punch tonight I can't... really respond to this movie on anything but an emotional level? Like, I felt like this movie got it. Just... hi, that's my life and my issues and my past, and ffs they're FINALLY BEING DEALT WITH in a way that doesn't make them seem hot or whatever, this movie LITERALLY SAID TO THE AUDIENCE 'this is fucked up and wrong and sick' and I am rambling but just. Yes.

I really connected to this movie on... really emotional, visceral levels. And I really cannot fucking believe I'm saying this because this is Zach freaking Snyder, not exactly the dude who comes to mind when you think 'who will make an amazing movie about rape culture and how it fucks women up before they even know the name for what's keeping them down' but people are not giving him, and Sucker Punch, the credit they both deserve.

ANYWAY YES. The costumes were kickass and tbh? Not even all that skimpy. A hint of cleavage here and there, some midriff... I'm not feeling the slut shame-y aspects of a lot of critique for this movie. Why can't women be sexy and still be powerful? And for that matter, in the movie the outfits --especially in the action sequences, not the bordello (which is supposed to feel exploitative, imo, but I guess ymmv)-- aren't like HEY BOYS, HOT FOR ME NOW? they're like "sup, we're fucking amazing and hot and also about to kick you in the junk." It's not for the men. It's for them.

Idk, babble babble babble tl;dr I love this post.