My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

The Crazies – 2010

This was kind of a lame, typical scary movie.  It was fun, and I did peek at the screen from behind my blanket at one point, so I would say it did what I wanted it to.  Basically, people in this small town have been contaminated through their drinking water, so some of them are going crazy and killing people.  The movie is about a handful of people (including the sheriff and his wife) who are trying to escape.  Like I said, it wasn’t all that original, so neither were the issues I had with it.

To start with, as with most Hollywood movies, there was not a single nonwhite person.  Nothing new there, but I think it is good to acknowledge that now and then.  Unless a movie is specifically about a certain racial group, it’s most often an extremely white cast.  There are exceptions of course, but as a general rule, it’s all about white people.  Lovely.

One thing that stood out to me about this movie is how often the sheriff told his wife, “Wait here.”  Even when all he was doing was packing supplies into a backpack.  I should also mention that she was pregnant, but not enough that you could tell.  (I did notice early in the movie that her belly was a little bigger than most leading ladies’, and wondered if that was because she was pregnant, or because she just looked like a regular person.)  So I’m not sure if he was always asking if she was okay, or telling her to just sit and wait while he did something productive because she was pregnant, or just because she was ‘his woman.’  Either way, it was really annoying. 

If it was because she was a woman, seriously?  Fuck off.  Sometimes I get it, men are often physically stronger than women, so if he’s trying to fight a bad guy, fine.  But he was packing supplies.  And she couldn’t help with that?  She couldn’t grab some water bottles and put them in a backpack?  She was too fragile for that?

If it was because she was pregnant, again I say, seriously?  I have seen very pregnant women take care of very little children.  Pick them up, feed them, discipline them, clean up after them.  I’m pretty sure a not-very pregnant woman can pack a frigging backpack.  Watching The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth completely changed how I look at birth and pregnancy, and made me realize that pregnant women are often treated like sick people, when actually they are the furthest thing from sick.  I need to watch them again before I post on them, but I highly recommend them both.  

And the last thing about this movie that drove me a little nuts was the fact that women never drove.  Again, this is not at all unique to this movie.  Watch any movie or TV show, and if there are a man and a woman in a car, the man is driving.  Unless there is a reason for the woman to be driving, it is important to the story, or it is highly sexualized.  In general.  This movie is a perfect example.  At the end, the couple steals a truck and drives away from the town that has essentially been destroyed.  The sheriff drives, despite the fact that his right hand (which he needs to shift gears) recently had a knife stabbed all the way through it.  When it showed him shifting gears, I realized how painful it would have been, especially because the gear shift looked pretty stubborn and he had to push quite hard to get it to move.  His wife was not injured at all.  But she was still a woman, so I guess it would have been ridiculous to think that maybe she could have driven.

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28 Days Later

Okay, besides the fact that a list of the “Top 50 Scary Movies of All Time” totally lied about how scary 28 Days Later is, here is what I thought of the movie:

It starts out pretty good.  He’s scared, confused and uncertain, and she’s badass, in control and unemotional.  (Not that I think women have to be unemotional to be strong.  I actually think that seeing emotion as weakness and encouraging women to distance themselves from emotions is misogynistic in nature.  But she did happen to be unemotional, which helped to subvert the gender roles played out in this part of the movie).

She is definitely a strong female character though (at least at first).  But I think it’s worth commenting that she is also black.  Maybe I’m reading too much into this, or I’m just way off, but I feel like black characters – men and women – are often automatically seen as tougher.  Or at least, they’re often put in tougher roles.  Our culture certainly sees black people as more threatening, as we see with the murder of Trayvon Martin.  A young, black boy can be murdered for dressing ‘thuggish,’ but white boys dressing the same way are often criticized – “You’re not black.  What are you doing?”  Because obviously a white person is not scary.

So anyway, I think it’s certainly notable that they chose to put a black woman in such a strong, almost masculine role.  She is actually quite animalistic (although, it is an apocalypse…) at first, which I know black women tend to be portrayed as in media.  But, I guess it’s also good that she was a major character in the movie who was useful to the group because she was smart and strong, not because she was sexy.

At least, not until they get to the military base, where the male soldiers needed women to rape.  Unfortunately, I think this is probably pretty realistic of what would happen in an apocalypse (since it already happens daily in this pre-apocalyptic world…).   The interesting things about post-apocalyptic stories is that they (attempt to) comment on a more basic, animalistic humanity.  In this setting, rape serves a very real function – repopulation.  It is not about power, control, terrorizing women, or even sex.  At least, it’s not only about those things.  It was interesting to look at rape from this perspective, because you can empathize more with the would-be rapists because it almost makes sense. 

It’s still not okay though.  So, men, if an apocalypse happens, it’s still not okay to rape!  If anything, this kind of shows that even at the end of the world we will need feminism. 

Also at the military base is a black man with a collar and chain being held in the yard like a (poorly treated) dog.  They wanted to capture ‘an infected’ to study.  I guess of all the white soldiers in the base who were attacked and infected, the only one they could capture just happened to be black??  Seems unlikely.  Seriously, there was only like one other black soldier, the rest were white.  The chances of capturing a white infected would have been way higher.  But they decided to make the man on the chain black instead?  Does that really seem like the best idea?

Alright, so we’ve got a strong black woman leading the way, a nervous white man, and a black man on a chain.  Somehow we get from that, to having a shaky, scared woman in a dress being rescued by a strong, shirtless, hyper-masculine man.  (Oh, and I guess the black man on the chain died, but he was infected so who cares – he wasn’t even really a person.  Wait a minute… racial metaphor??)

Basically, the soldiers wanted their rape to be classy, so they asked the ‘women’ (the main female character and a girl they met and brought to the military base) to put on fancy dresses.  I find it quite interesting that as changed into more gender appropriate clothes, she also changed into gender appropriate behaviour.  That is, she was scared and helpless until a man saved her.

The man that she had led in the beginning of the movie now escaped from the soldiers that were trying to kill him, lost his shirt to some barbed wire, gouged a man’s eyes out, and swooped in to save the damsel in distress.  Because let’s be honest… women can’t actually save themselves.  Even if we act strong, we all actually need a man to save us and fall in love with us.  Lest we live horrible lives as sex slaves and die lonely and scared.

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My Bloody Valentine – 2009

*Spoiler Alert!*

Unfortunately, I kinda love horror movies.  Hard to do as a feminist, but I can’t help it.  In terms of the awful sexism and objectification of women’s bodies that horror movies are usually full of, My Bloody Valentine isn’t too bad.  There was one scene where a naked woman was killed after having sex, but a LOT of people were killed in that movie, so as a percentage, it wasn’t bad.  One point (that I forgot to write about) that Tough Guise makes is that men are conditioned to associate hot naked women with violence.  We see it over and over in horror movies – hot woman, sexual situation, horrible bloody murder.  It’s a little terrifying when you think about it.

What I liked about this movie in terms of gender was that Tom was clearly extremely fucked up by his experience with Harry Warden.  He didn’t just get up after he was almost killed and walk away unaffected.  He left for 10 years, and was very clearly affected by what happened for that whole time.  It also recognizes that men can have a mental illness (although it is not very sympathetic of it… but it’s just a horror movie after all), which is something that we do not like to talk about in our society.  We like to pretend that men are unaffected by trauma, which obviously causes problems for men who experience it.

This movie wasn’t perfect, but horror movies are usually so horrifyingly sexist, racist, misogynistic, exploitative, etc. that in comparison, this was actually pretty good.  Also, Tom is super dreamy.  🙂

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