So, this past weekend I found myself in Dublin city with a little time to spare. This, I have to say, doesn’t happen very often any more – even less so when I’m in the company of my husband – and we wondered what we could do to fill a few hours.
‘Why don’t we go and see a film?’ suggested The Husband.
‘What a wonderful idea,’ replied The Wife, with a sparkle in her eye.
My husband is a film fan, but not exactly a cinema – i.e. the physical movie theatre – fan. He knows, however, that I am both a film and a cinema nut. I was ridiculously pleased at his suggestion, so much so that I may actually have giggled and gambolled – just a little – at the thought of it, not only at the sheer delight of going to see a film but also at my husband’s loveliness in offering to bring me. So, off to the movies we went.
We were in the mood for a comedy, which was perfect, because the first thing to jump out at both of us from the listings screen in the cinema foyer was ‘RED 2’. We looked at each other, and immediately ran for the ticket line.
Some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll do a little ‘splainin’ here. ‘RED’ (it stands for ‘Retired and Extremely Dangerous’) came out in 2010, and was somewhat of an unlikely hit. Telling the story of several retired agents who once worked for, variously, the CIA, KGB and MI6 (sometimes an assortment of all three) who just can’t give up the old job, it was a darkly comic action movie with excellent performances from a stellar cast. I’d been vaguely aware a sequel was in the works, but I hadn’t realised it had been released. We were hoping, so much, that ‘RED 2’ would be a worthy successor to the original, and it was. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at a film in months.
But the humour, and the cast, and the story, and the concept behind the movie, are not what I want to talk about today. Instead, it’s the ‘f’ word. Yes – feminism. What else? ‘RED 2’ pleased my feminism-sensors, very much indeed.
Firstly: the movie has Helen Mirren in it. Helen Mirren.
Secondly: none of the female characters are required to get their clothes off, for any reason whatsoever. This was such a relief and utterly wonderful in every way.
Thirdly: none of the women are under forty, and the movie not only highlights this, but celebrates it. None of them look fake, or surgically enhanced, or anything less than their beautiful, natural selves. Hooray!
Fourthly: none of the women are for ‘decoration’ only; they all have skills, talents, strength, courage and chutzpah, and each of them is vital – in their own unique and interesting way – to the film and the storyline.
Fifthly: none of the women are ‘rewarded’ with a husband at the end.
Sixthly: I’m pretty sure it passes the Bechdel Test.
Movies are an amazing art form. I adore them. Nothing thrills me more than a good film (besides a good book, of course). However, like a lot of people, the ways in which women are portrayed in films and the ways in which female characters are used in the film industry angers me, at times. Even as we sat waiting for ‘RED 2’ to start, we were bombarded with trailers for other movies, one of which (I deliberately forgot the name of it, as a form of personal protest) featured women as nothing more than bikini-clad toys; perhaps the finished movie has some redeeming features, but I intend never to find out. A recent movie I saw, which I loved, I have to admit, but which irritated me dreadfully from the point of view of its treatment of women was ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’. In this film, the men are the heroes, there is gratuitous female nudity and the women – despite the fact that they may be doctors, or capable of speaking a multitude of alien languages, or entitled to serve on the bridge of a starship – are all, primarily, beautiful distractions for the men. Objects first, people afterwards. That’s depressing.
It drives me mad when female characters aren’t treated with the same respect as male ones. It drives me mad when a film demands a woman’s nudity for no discernible narrative reason. It really drives me mad when a woman’s only role is to scream and stand around looking terrified, waiting to be rescued, and I hate films where a woman’s intelligence is ignored, or her ideas discounted for no reason besides the fact of her gender. Even good films – clever films, enjoyable and well-made films – can be guilty of treating female characters this way. Women (both on celluloid and in real life) aren’t perfect, of course – they can sometimes be shrill and annoying and silly and full of stupid ideas and they can be arrogant and unlikeable and even nasty – but so can men, because people are people. I really can’t understand why female characters are seen, so often, as ‘supporting’ characters, sidekicks to the male characters and not at all integral to the story. I wonder how many films exist which would work just as well if all the female characters were removed? More than we’d like to think, I’m sure.
Anyway. Go and see ‘RED 2’, particularly if you saw ‘RED’ and enjoyed it. There’s violence, and ‘scenes of extreme peril’, and I’m sure it won’t suit everyone’s palate. From the point of view of how it treats its women, though, I have no complaints. And, as well as that, it had me weeping with laughter at several junctures, so that can’t be bad.
Happy Monday! Let’s hope this is a good start to an even better week.