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.