Suffragette Cinema

a feminist look at films and the media surrounding them

Turning Up The Heat

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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.

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