Suffragette Cinema

a feminist look at films and the media surrounding them


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I’m Calling Wolf (of Wall Street)

Erin Landau named The Wolf of Wall Street this year’s most misogynistic blockbuster and after viewing it myself, I would have to agree. There were many points throughout the movie; so many that I lost count, where I felt my jaw drop at the high level of disrespect, misogyny, and oversexualization of women throughout the film. In The Wolf of Wall Street the majority of women who receive air time are hookers, strippers, helpless wives, or gold-digging girlfriends. Landau states in her article that this portrayal “raises interesting questions about how women are portrayed as accessories to their leading men.“

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The portrayal of both men and women in this film is abysmal to me. Women are once again objectified and used as objects in this film, they are known for their sexual endeavors and are otherwise useless. In many scenes, where Belfort, Men are also portrayed negatively in this film- they are demoted to being animals whose only goals are to have sex, make money, and do drugs. In her article, Helen O’Hara states when discussing the men of the film, “They consider themselves alpha males, warriors, as their leader Belfort whips them into a frenzy of excitement for the latest opportunity to make money. But the truth is that they are weak, ridiculous, boys playing at being men… no reasonable audience member can look at them and think, ‘That. That’s what a real man looks like.’”

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Ultimately, this is a film that I have seen many times before. These are not new depictions and unfortunately, I can bet that in the future, there will be many more versions of The Wolf of Wall Street. Below is a spoof trailer of The Women of Wall Street created to make a point about both the ridiculousness of sexualization of women and how if reversed, as seen with one of the men being covered in packets of money as in one scene from the film, many of the things women are subjected to are absurd. As well as giving an example of a film that we have not seen many times before, as a majority female cast with women in power is a rarity.

I think that struck me the most about this film, however, was not the film itself. What struck me was the fact that this was nominated for five Oscars. While I recognize that there are a lot of components that go into nominations and recognize that the acting and direction of the movie was well done, it still does not sit well with me that a movie that is so anti- women was still a runner for such prestigious awards. I feel that this only perpetuates rape culture and the dehumanization of both women and men.


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Whose story is it, anyway?

Over the past few months, there have been two movies that have gotten considerable hype for having a white cis-gendered male play a character from a different subordinated group. In this case, I am referring to Jared Leto who plays Rayon, a transgender woman, in Dallas Buyers Club and Johnny Depp who plays Tonto, a Native American from the Comanche tribe, in Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Both men have been the center of many debates questioning the reasoning behind their being cast in those roles. deppAs I have discussed in previous posts, there is absolutely an overrepresentation of whiteness in the media, particularly of white men. Many people are thus outraged that these two roles, designed to honor and bring forward stories that are not typically seen in Hollywood, were given to the very men that we as a society are used to seeing.

Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger.

Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger.

I do not think it is fair to place all of the blame on these two actors, Depp and Leto have proved themselves to be successful at what they do. However, it does call into question why actors and actresses who do represent these subordinated identities are not being asked to play a specific role, why they are not being sought out and being chosen by casting directors.

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This can similarly be seen within television shows and movies at large within the disabled communities- Degrassi’s Jimmy, Glee’s Artie. By having this character be played by communities who do not share the same identities, it is lowering representation.

Overall, there continues to be arguments for both sides in all of these cases. For instance, Comanche Chairman Wallace Coffey, an elected official for the Comache people, while said that he would love to see someone who identities as Native on the big screen, also stated, “This is just the beginning, is my thinking. It opens the doors for more creative visions with regard to Native Americans in the future….” However, others, including Adrienne Keene, author of the blog Native Appropriations, stated, “You guys, I’m pissed off. Like for real. I had a teensy-tiny bit of hope that this wouldn’t be another othering-stereotype-filled-horror, but clearly I was so wrong.”

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The cast of television show, Glee.

 

I believe that there are many things to say in terms of representation in the media, and while I believe that those actors who were chosen to play Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, Tonto in The Lone Ranger, Jimmy in Degrassi, Artie in Glee, and still dozens more of characters did not do a bad job in their portrayals, I do not know if I believe they fully play up those characters to their justice. I believe that it would make much more of an impact to have a woman who identifies as trans* play the role or Rayon on the trans* community, to have someone Native play Tonto, etc., As I said, it isn’t as though those selected weren’t good, but it’s yet another way of hiding a subordinated group and not allowing those who identify on a daily basis to be visible. We are, in part, erasing the true stories and struggles that the characters are meant to portray.

 


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Divergent Gives the Middle Finger to Rape Culture

Divergent takes place in a post- apocalyptic Chicago where there are five factions to which every person belongs to. Each faction holds a specific trait that they honor above all things, intelligence in Erudite, bravery in Dauntless, selfless in Abnigation, honesty in Candor, and peacefulness in Amity. The film follows Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley), born into Abnigation, but when she comes to age and is able to choose her own faction, selects Dauntless. For the first half of the movie, Tris is shown becoming accustomed to her new faction as she goes through initiation and fights her way to be able to secure a spot in her new home.

There were a few significant moments that stuck out to me throughout Divergent, all of which broke down a form of rape culture and gives empowerment to women.

First, in one memorable scene where Tris and Four (Theo James) are kissing, Tris breaks away from him and tells him that she does not want to go to fast. Four agrees and the two break apart and continue on in their days. This simple but significant moment gives Tris power over her own body and sexuality, she is able to dictate what she wishes to or not to do, and Four accepts this without question. There is no coercion, no awkwardness, and no backlash, it is simply accepted and their relationship through the movie continues to get only stronger.

In another scene, when Tris returns to Dauntless after a brief trip away, she is caught and attacked by three masked men. They carry her as she struggles against them to the chasm and attempt to throw her into it which would lead to her death. During the fight, Tris is able to unmask one of the men, revealing Al (Christian Madsen), one of her closest friends from Dauntless. Hearing the fight, Four approaches the situation and saves Tris from the three men, telling Tris that Al was at risk for being kicked out of Dauntless because of his low ranking, hence his irrational actions. Later that night, Al approaches Tris and begs for her forgiveness, stating that it was a mistake. However, Tris brushes aside his comments stating If you ever touch me again, I will kill you.

While Four’s heroism is the predictable and well played out knight-in-shining-armor-saving-the-damsel-in-distress scenario, Divergent saves itself by putting in Tris’s standing up for herself and pushing away Al’s feeble apologies. She advocates for herself by letting Al know that what he did was not okay and that she would not stand for her so called friends and fellow faction members to treat her so poorly.

A final scene that I wish to discuss, is during a simulation Tris is put into as a way to be tested on her ability to deal and conquer her fears, Tris is shown being sexually assaulted by Four. In the scene, Tris fights back and succeeds in defeating Four and protecting herself. And, when she comes out of the simulation, the crowd of onlookers around her cheer her on, chant her name for her admirable defeat, and praise her for her strength. They tell her she is a model and inspiration for other trainees, that her fighting was perfect, that it was right. They validate everything she has just done.

This is revolutionary. That a young woman is shown on screen being assaulted and comes out as the hero, is seen as someone who is extremely strong.

The fear of sexual assault is something that nearly every women can relate to, and over one fifth of that female population has experienced sexual assault. It is a very lived, terrifying, and real experience and often in the media, it is not something that is taken seriously. This scene, as well as the previous two, give power back to women. They are a visual representation of female empowerment and a culture where rape and violence against women will not be tolerated.

And that, is amazing.


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Turning Up The Heat

This summer’s comedy action film, The Heat, follows FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Boston police officer, Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) as they attempt to find and bring down a well-known drug lord. Something that particularly stood out to me in this action filled comedy was Mullins no bullshit attitude. While sometimes perverse and extreme, and with a mouth that sometimes made me cringe, Mullins works in a male dominated career and excels in it, part of that being because of her attitude of simply not caring about how others see her.

Mullins is unashamed of herself and helps her, at first enemy and later turned friend, Ashburn learn to be similarly confident in herself. Though I became nervous at the character of Ashburn, who was shown to be highly career driven and cold and her fellow coworkers would joke “that’s why she’s single. However, by the end of the movie, the conclusion was not that she only needed to find a man that could melt her (if this sounds familiar, I’ve just roughly outlined another of Bullock’s performances in The Proposal), but rather through the help of Mullins, Ashburn learned to loosen up and enjoy life more (without a man).

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I was pleased to see that Mullins was similarly confident in her body. Mullins is unashamed of herself and in multiple scenes various men come with whom she’s had relationships and flings with in the past come up and confess their love for her. She additionally inspires some confidence in Ashburn by mocking the spanx she wears underneath her pants. She makes fun of them and calls a mockery to the fashion world- calling to attention how ridiculous it is for women to feel the need to alter their bodies or create an illusion of some warped form of beauty. Mullins is confident in herself and her weight is never brought up, joked about, or shamed. In other films, such as Bridesmaids, where McCarthy played a comedic role, her weight was brought up multiple times and made the butt of fatphobic jokes.

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The Heat is not a perfect film, however, I was extremely impressed by the character of Mullins, and would like to see more characters that follow her loud, outspoken, and confident mannerisms.