Yesterday, before I went to sleep, I was perusing through Youtube. I am a film aficionado (not just feminist ones), and among the videos, Youtube recommended me was the newly released trailer for a movie called Peppermint. The thumbnail showed Jennifer Garner’s face covered in blood and distraught with her head leaning beside a tombstone.
I became curious.
“Oh. This looks exciting!”
The trailer presented Garner’s character with her family enjoying their day in a carnival. After a montage of scenes that shows their happiness, that same happiness is cut short by some gang members shooting them and consequently kill her daughter and husband. Long story short, after we see that in this universe, the justice system is incompetent (or corrupt?), she resurfaces five years later with a vengeful goal to end her family’s killers.
By training over five years and therefore having badass enough, ninja-like movements that even Batman would like her to become his next Robin.
Below is the trailer if you want to take a look at it yourself.
The trailer ends, and even though I felt that it gave away almost the entire movie, sans the ending, I was willing to give a chance. Jennifer Garner was back in action 12 years after the end of Alias. She captivated the attention of viewers as the kickass Sydney Bristow, similar to Buffy’s success years before, albeit less fantastical on more grounded. In fact, the tone of this movie makes it feel as if it’s a spiritual successor to that show.
Before my eyes shut down from exhaustion, I went to the comment section of the channel to see how other people felt about it.
Some were comparing to Marvel’s The Punisher, one where the premise is similar but is led by a male protagonist. Others excited that their favorite actress is back to kick some butt, while others were in the “sure, I will give it a chance” section, like your friendly neighborhood writer.
Then I saw this comment.
My favorite shows and tv are mostly female-led, and you could argue that to some degree I support feminism, but I am not offended by the comment itself. In fact, the trailer does look as if the Taken producers wanted a feminist version of their story.
I support the concept of feminism. I support entertainment media promoting and giving women more significant role in stories. However, the problem here is not the comment or the idea of feminism, it is instead, the manner Hollywood and video game developers handle it. By managing the way industries think is appealing, we end up with a pro-feminist vs. anti-feminist duel and with comments like the one above, which mock feminism.
Give me a good movie
Imagine The Godfather being remade for modern audiences. This time of Al Pacino’s character, Michael Corleone, leading the movie, you are shown a Godmother instead. Would you not feel it is an insult?
It is an insult. It insults the legacy of the movie. It offends the progress society is making in representing women in stories. By replacing a beloved character whether man to women or vice versa (which is very rare) and give it an original story, I bet you the best taco in the world that it will anger some fans, at the least, skeptical about it. A clear example of this was the remake of Ghostbusters.
Holy burritos was that a horrible attempt at progress in the movie industry. The greatest failure I have witnessed. The moment moviegoers saw that women were replacing the iconic Ghostbusters, everybody was agonizing. But why?
“Feminist advocates ruining a beloved franchise again” some thought.
Well, for one, the movie fell flat in its one job, to make the audience laugh. Second, if the film had at least a decent story and an apparent reason for the change of gender, then it would not have been a problem at all. If we could have fallen in love with the characters, or even a simple cameo from the original actors to acknowledge the mark they left in the movie industry.
Hollywood took the lousiest approach and just splattered a nonsensical and unflattering “comedy” with no reason to justify its existence. This approach has made audiences to plaster a “feminist edition” label in everything that resembles an original concept replaced with a girl.
Hopefully, Ocean 8 is a movie that will not fall the same path.
Now take, for example, another remake of Terminator, again. Imagine if Sarah Connor was not the star of the movie. Rather, she is gender-swapped, and the man meets a girl from the future. Would it not feel unnecessary?
It feels shoved down our throats. That is what the entertainment media does, it shoves it down our throats, to the point that the word feminism makes us sick. That is what some TV shows sometimes do. Audiences tend to blame feminist critics or feminism in general, for ruining their episodes.
Skip that episode
Two major TV series that have taken it to the point that it has ruined the show itself are comic book based series, The Flash, and Supergirl. The Flash‘s fifth episode of its recent season, besides the fact that the CW could have just practically put a #feminism sign throughout the event, was one of the weakest episodes the show offered. The episode was plagued left and right with instances of “We don’t need the boys to help us.” When Felicity says at the end of a fight “We did it guys,” with Iris almost reminding us once again, “Actually it’s girls.”
Really? Did we need to have a piece of insignificant dialogue be modified with the term “girls”? Did you guys expect me to cheer “Yeah! feminist power!” when Iris said that?
I will let you see the clip for yourself.
This episode failed, not only because it’s “too on the nose,” but it also gives poorly developed characters the spotlight. One character, the show does not know what to do with her storyline. The other two are the epitome of annoying. While the last one is barely introduced this season. Okay, this particular rant will go for another time. In this case, however, you can’t just take underdeveloped characters and shove to our face, “They are strong and are powerful women, there’s your healthy dose of feminism guys. Oh, wait, GIRLS.” It does not work like that.
If you want to show that your women are powerful, take, for example, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Nikita, or Orphan Black. Now, these are great TV shows led by women. These have consistent and well-balanced characters. Every one of them earns our attention because they are integral to the story, whether they are men or women. The shows’ protagonists have flaws and are understandable. The shows touch on other themes other than “girl power.”
They show that you can root for these women other than the fact that they could probably break your nose. The Americans is also great if not, an underrated show that demonstrates that both man and woman can share the spotlight and without the need to make either the lesser of one.
Women in Video Games
Video games, for the most part, are more subtle about this, which is for the best. While not offending or underrepresenting either men or women in games, developers are more aware of making women have a more integral role in the stories they create. One of the most recent best-selling games in the video game industry The Witcher 3, is led by a man, yet, the women featured in the story are endearing and never feel as if they are just an object or a placeholder for the developers to say “We included strong women.”
On the other hand, if you take them away from the story, you bet it will fall apart. I longed for the moments the game would let me play as Ciri. Not just because I am a woman who wants to take control a female character, or because Geralt is boring.
On the other hand, it was because her character and her combat were unique and exciting. She had her journey, purpose, and personality. She was not just the “female version” of Geralt.
Talking about “female version,” let’s talk about Tomb Raider. Most of all, the recent reboot of the video game. Fans of the Uncharted franchise, often complain that Lara Croft is the “female version” of Uncharted’s main protagonist. On the other side of the coin, Croft fans complain that Nathan Drake is the “Dude Raider” of the iconic character. In this regard, Lara Croft is an iconic and classic video game character. The developers made a right move in, unintentionally or not, in borrowing gameplay elements from the Uncharted series. I became a Tomb Raider fan because of the reboot. This was gritty and to some degree more grounded. However, it came at a cost, with her wittiness and charm lost throughout the process. What if she retained those elements? Wouldn’t she be more of a “female version” of Nathan Drake? Would we stop liking Naughty Dog’s successful character?
Look, I am no “hardcore, parkour” feminist. My childhood consisted of me rewatching Dragon Ball Z every time it came on. I raised my hands and lent my energy to Goku for him to defeat Majin Buu with a Spirit Bomb. I grew up liking Tarzan and Hercules rather than Snow White or The Little Mermaid.
Give us a compelling story. Engage us with original characters. Don’t spoonfeed your audience with some feminist daily doses.
Share your thoughts and comments below. Tell me what you think is the real problem here. Do video games handle it better or worse? Are you one of the few who liked the remake of Ghostbusters? Have I lost my taco bet?