Sucker Punch: Deeply Problematic.
Zack Snyder the erstwhile director of ‘Sucker Punch’ and ‘300’ has not been a director I particularly like, while I am a huge fan of ‘exploitation’ cinema, if only because it is so wonderfully flawed ‘Sucker Punch’ has left me cold.
Where do I begin, with the outfits? Maybe, alas I believe that would be to simple a place to start as accusing a male director of turning women into cheesecake is hardly a task.
No, this movie has deeper problems than that.
Sucker Punch opens with a scene of violence and possible sexual abuse by a step father against his two daughters, he kills one of them and the other gets sent to a mental institution.
This young woman, a blonde haired girl named ‘Baby Doll’ from here goes through a series of adventures leading to her escape, she does this by convincing her fellow inmates all other women, to rebel against the guards, the lead therapist (another woman) and the head of the asylum a man named ‘Blue’.
Now, here is where things get murky because as if things were not bad enough, suddenly the mental asylum is for reasons I can’t really explain is imagined as a ‘brothel’ or ‘strip club’ by our protagonist.
Here is where the problem is, ‘Baby Doll’ has been beaten and abused, sent to an asylum for wayward girls and suddenly her mental escape, her imaginary way to create her own freedom is to imagine she is in a ‘brothel’ in particular, one where women are routinely abused, beaten and killed.
Kept only as slaves.
In this scenario ‘Blue’ is the ruthless owner of the brothel and the therapist is a dance teacher, who tells them that ‘they have all the weapons they need’ which are implied to be their bodies.
She gives a message of strength, while at the same time telling them that to be able to be strong they have to take advantage of the ‘male gaze’.
So she concocts the plan to escape, which involves dancing.
Yes Dancing. They distracted the men with what are implied to be overly sexual dances.
These dances are imagined by the girls as epic battles and adventures, fights against dragons in planes, killing zombies with machine guns in First World War trenches and attacking robots from helicopters over a train in the future. All the while dressed in burlesque and overly sexualised attire.
Is this the kind of imagination one escapes too when frightened and being abused?, running off idealized male video game fantasy of women in school girl outfits (with lots of crotch shots) fighting monsters.
Oh and on all these imaginary missions (which are actually dances to distract guards and others) who is the person giving them orders and support? A man.
Zack Snyder has claimed this is his vision of female empowerment, and yes while it is good in its message, all it does is point out that the only weapons women have are our bodies.
I won’t really reveal the ending, but I will say this, even has one of our heroes escapes at the end, she gets on the bus only to be stopped by police, suddenly the bus driver intervenes. He is the man who has been giving them orders and briefing them on each of their ‘missions’ in their dance/dream sequences.
It’s a tragic trope; women can’t have their own freedom without help from men.
So sucker punch, for all its hopes and possibilities, just comes off as a deeply problematic cheesecakey romp through male fantasies of what female empowerment might look like.
This movie could have been really fun and interesting; it had promise and an interesting concept.
Instead it’s just more of the same.
Come on Hollywood, it’s time to grow up.
I write this now is after reading a chapter of Carole Maso, who’s writing of home, heart and emotion speaks to me in the voices of Elizabeth Jolley, Dorothy Porter, Julia Serano and so many other great women authors who I have admired.
As I have aged I have surrounded myself and been inspired by strong women.
Women who’s talent, passion and drive continaully push me to want to better myself and improve who I am. My relationships with these women have been complex and hard to verbalise but I feel I must.
So here you will find some things I find so enduring about these women and why they shall always live in my memory.
One of these women is my Mother, though we fight, bicker and at the end of the day have little in common I realise she did the best she could, I respect her achivements and her art. She is an image of comfort and childhood, unfortunatley it’s an idealised one.
As a child she provided the comfort and warmth one would expect from a Mother, though she has provided me the sense of security or the help that I needed. Her own issues are immense and she must fight her own battles, though she has not always sided with me, I know it is because she has her demons she must face.
I respect her for running away from home, for leaving an abusive father and for starting her own business and being sucessful, politically we do not often agree. She is however always going to be my Mother, and I love her.
I cannot remember how we met, and although we have only ever spoken long distance I feel like I know your face by heart.
We share a common congnition about the world, and although our genetics and age are so different we are much alike.
When I am older you are the kind of woman I want to be, I respect the way you feel about the world and your opinions on the nuances of ‘Slack’, you are the part of me who wishes she had ever visited Olympia in the mid ninties and seen Cobain live.
You are cool in ways that I am not, and I am in some ways cooler that you in others. What this means though is subjective and only really important to the two of us. You taught me a lot about what it means to be Butch and to be comfortable in my own sexuality. You are dear to me in many ways and I hope our friendship continues for many years.
Here’s to that whiskey by the beach one day.
Although we are so different I am in awe of your intellect and I feel like a stupid child next to you.
You can be patronising but I know you mean no harm in it, you taught me a lot about feminism and what it means to think about gender and the paths it cuts through our lives and culture.
You are beautiful and graceful and although you suffer that terrible physical disconnection we both share, you always seem to look at home in your body and connected to it. I envy this and your ability to pose. You are a delight in front of the camera and a delight to learn from. I respect you as a teacher and something of a mentor. You have since moved far away to the land of the ‘free’ for a woman that you love. I hope you don’t end up regretting this. My thoughts are with you always.
I cannot call you a friend, but you were a Mentor.
My social worker and constant support, with paitence for my irritabilty and irattional behaviour that seemed inexhahustible.
THanks for putting up with me. You taught me to be proud of who I am, stand up for myself to my family and to be okay with being Queer. I am in your debt. I have not seen you in years and I hope you are well. My best goes to you and your partner, I often wonder if you had that IVF and child you so badly wanted.
A friend, who’s taste in film I dislike, and who’s ability to be so terribly Neurotypical sometimes borders on the frustrating. Although weighed down by your anxiety your desire to achieve your goals despite any barriers is remarkable.
You are informed and well thought out, politics is your game and you play it well.Both professionally and personally. Your social skills scare me sometimes because I am threatned by what I do not understand.
Your heart is in the right place so your desire to get your goals completed and your need for social justice in this world is a wonderful one. You are a supportive friend and companion in my daily life. Thanks for being there when I needed it most.
You are a puzzle to me sometimes, I feel we have a link that is somehow intangible. Like a lost sister who I should never have had in the first place. It’s hard to say. Your ability to know your own heart and speak your desires is beautiful and heartbreaking. You often seem sad and weighed down by so many things and I often wish to lift you up and see if you’re okay.
You taught me about feminism, social conscience and thinking objectivley about emotions. Although we only ever get time to speak in short bursts my desire to sit down with you and just talk for hours is a burning one. I feel there is much you could teach me, on campus I see you as a mentor, a sister and a friend. Although you can be radical and often outspoken your ability to accept those parts of yourself and see them in a positive light inspires me to do the same.
You are older than I am, but your embrace is warm and kind.
There are more women I could talk about here, but those are the main ones.
With that said.
This post isn’t about rationality or about knowing something is wrong. It’s about emotion. It’s about how things make me feel. While I know to ignore words about how I am only valuable if I’m pretty, or how being mentally means I should just shut up and get on with life.
It makes me doubt myself as a woman, it makes me feel dis-empowered and it makes me feel depressed.
I know people troll for their own selfish reasons, or to get kicks.
There is how-ever one thing I know even more strongly which is, late at night tonight. I’m going to lie in bed and I’ll think back to this random dude’s words and a little tiny weeny part of me will say ‘what if he’s right?’ and my whole self esteem will crumble and I’ll probably cry.
At the end of the day though, that’s while I’ll always win. While we’ll always win.
Because we can cry, because we can laugh and we can feel.
That’s what allows us to be better, to better ourselves, to be strong and to be informed.
And the troll themselves? They probably cry too.
But not because of what others do to them, but because of what they do to themselves.
A long time ago I was a poor kid who was lonely, so I decided hey! Look! The Internet! it will be fun!
The internet community has been my playground for over a decade, I’ve got accounts on Digg, Reddit, Deviantart, twitter, facebook etc etc etc I’ve been on irc netowrks such as freenode, austnet, dalnet, quakenet, hell if there was an irc network I’ve been on it.
On top of this, I play video games REGULARLY WoW, Star Trek:Online, battlefield (et al), tf2, on and on.
And everywhere I go I’m either forced to use a male nick to avoide notice, or if I do identify myself as female risk ‘Tits or GTFO’ ‘Omg a girl on the inernet’ ‘omg pics!’.
Can you imagine how this might make me feel? Hurt, isoltated and TOTALLY objectified.
This is not funny, it’s not a meme, it’s not ‘hilarious’ and i’m certainly not a ‘bitch who cant take a joke’ or who has a ‘’omfg pms much’ (got that one more than I can count).
I’m sick of memes about racism, I’m sick of guys in vent saying ‘OMG RAPED!’ when they kill somebody easily in a game. I’m sick of gay slurs and guys calling each other faggots.
I’m sick of all kinds of this shit.
Now I could post logs of examples, or I could just tell you the story of what happened today.
I was in a regular Bad Company 2 match on one of the 3fl Western Australian servers (best ping, usually they are pretty okay in terms of people). I use the nick ‘Samanth0r’ when I’m online in games or on irc. Sometimes this gets picked up as female sometimes it doesn’t. My name is Samantha so it seemed appropriate.
now today, i get a private message in game with this guy sending me his phone number, asking about my body, and requesting sexual favours. I get angry and chastise him in open channel, he says ‘omg I trolled you so hard lol!’.
this isn’t cool. Trolling isn’t funny, It’s not respectable, And i’m over it.
It’s no better than grade school teasing and it’s being acted out by so called ‘responsible’ adults online everyday in most every community.
Every day, being a woman online in male dominated communities I get chastised for being a woman, or at least I feel like it because whenever I assert myself I either get called a bitch or told to shut up.
When I call out guys on behaviour I think is really offensive, I get shouted at.
Online I am under constant threat of being turned into an object.
I’m tired of it.
I can’t do it anymore.
I’ll keep up my blogging, I’ll be on msn, I’ll be on the places you would expect to find me, but irc and gamming communities I’m out.
Now you can tell me that this is behaviour that should be ‘put up with’ and that ‘its the internet’ but let’s be honest here, i don’t have to put up with that in my daily life in REAL LIFE why should I or WANT TO put up with it online? Why should I even need to?
You’re asking me to accept that I’m an object and that I have no voice.
That’s a breach of everything I hold dear to myself and the human race.
Maybe it’s time a lot of internet communities re-examine their behaviour, many of them wonder why they can’t get female members? Is it do hard to realise why when the first thing you ask for is a picture of our breasts? or for ‘proof’?
Why can’t we just be members of a community known for our knowledge, our abilities and our own voices?
Why internet communities, where so many of you value equality, justice, liberty and the right to choose, suddenly shout down women’s voices? Make sexist jokes at the slightest urging? Berate women’s opinions when we stand up for ourselves and then claim biological determinism as an argument for your hatred (I’m looking at you reddit and digg).
I’m tired, I’m sick of fighting just to have a voice and I’m sick of being treated like a second class citizen. But not just me, I’m sick of womens treatment online, the treatment of minorities, GLBT people, women and men of colour, hell I’m just tired of the unaccepting attitudes that are so dominant among even the smallest irc channels top the largest networks.
Why do you hate us? Why is it fun to make fun of us?
I’d love an answer if you’ve got one.
In peace, Samantha Davies
And one last thing, to those of you who do think as I do (I know there are even some men out there who do in these communities) why are you often unwilling to stand up against the crowd? It just hurts yourself and others if you stay silent.
So ea games has decided to run a competition at comic-con where you get your photo taken with as many ‘booth babes’ as possible.
Women are more than sex symbols.
The only reason ‘booth babes’ exist in the first place is to sell products.
Stop objectifying us please.