As many as there are superhero movies this summer, there is an equal number of films with feminist themes or elements. Those films include Savages, The Avengers, Brave, The Dark Knight Rises, and Magic Mike. All of these films examine and discuss feminism in various styles and approaches, mostly based on their target audience and plotlines.
We will begin this by examining Savages. This film depicts the lives of three young people who are in a complicated love triangle and running a drug cartel. Now, this film does have the main female character kidnapped and used as a pawn to lure in the two male characters, but the feminism of this film comes in through the fact that the main evil villian is a woman– thus, ladies we are no longer sentenced to the role as wife or mistress to the drug cartel leader, we can be the drug cartel leader now. While this film creates a modern interpretation and combination of Pulp Fiction and Scar Face, it somehow empowers women in that we are being viewed as human– in that we can be as cunning, manipulative, and ruthless as male villians. So, perhaps, compared to the other films, this film expresses feminism in a negative concept, but with positive results.
The next film is the billion dollar Marvel movie, The Avengers. It is true that this film only had one female character, Black Widow, but the director seemed to make a conscious effort to ensure that their were women working for the government and that they were actually doing something, rather than just standing behind male characters or awkwardly in the background.
We will now discuss the new Pixar movie Brave, which has received mix reviews on the feminist themes. The film encourages young girls to assert their individuality and role in deciding their futures, as well as encourage young boys to respect girls and believe that girls are capable of being independent. What could be wrong with that? Well, there are critics that claim that because the main female character is not interested in an arranged marriage, she must be a lesbian. Now, I have no issues with homosexual people, but I feel that these critics are saying that women who want to define their own futures and individuality must not be interested in the opposite sex. I feel that in a modern society we should not be automatically assuming that a female character that is independent is homosexual. And if she is, what does it matter?
The next film is the final film to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. I find it strange that out of every comic book series, it took Nolan three films to get to one of the many female villians, Cat Woman. I am happy that we are finally seeing a female villian, but I was kinda hoping it would be Poison Ivy rather than Cat Woman. Nevertheless, by having a female villian we are, again, humanizing women by saying we are both capable of good and bad– that we don’t always walk into trouble, sometimes we start it.
The final movie we will discuss is Magic Mike, which has created a lot of recent excitement and critique.This is the first film since American Gigolo to discuss male prostitution and stripping. There have been many films that have explored female prostitution and stripping (in both condescending and sympathetic view points) but a very few that examine the male version. Perhaps this is because people do not want to think about women being interested in anything associated with sex (or even just innuendo) and women feel guilty over admitting they find someone attractive. It could also just be that men feel that showing this type of subject is too vulnerable and would portray men in a negative framework. Nevertheless, this film is showing that men can become involved in this business as the employee, rather than just the boss.
What do you think of these movies and their portrayals of feminism? Do you agree that there are elements of feminism in these films or do you think that there is no intentional feminist values or opinions in these films?