Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere

So, last night I couldn't sleep. Again. Drives me absolutely bonkers. But last night I couldn't sleep because all night long I was writing in my head something about the movie Slumdog Millionaire. I saw it with a friend last week and the damn thing isn't leaving me alone.

So here's the deal.
I'm the girl in the back of the class with her hand raised, looking uncomfortable while everyone else is cheering their hearts out. "Um, excuse me? Pardon me? Could I just say this?"

I liked the movie. Really. I did. I've told many people to go out and see it, and that's a rare thing for me, but, although I want to overlook this major, glaring fault in an otherwise very awesome movie, I can't.

Let me say it here. Let me be loud. Let me be clear.

I'm sick to death of love stories where the girl plays the helpless/ powerless to effect her own salvation/ waiting for that knight in shining armour to save her, kind of role.
Seriously, kids. How long are we going to tell this story for? How is it that once again a pretty face is an interesting enough face? That nothing more substantial needs to emerge for her story to be meaningful?

I know. You're all rolling your eyes and calling me the eight letter f-word. And I know. That wasn't what the movie was about. I know. It was chock full of so many very fantastic things that it's almost asshole-ish of me to point it out. I know. It was going for a magical realism sort of deal with the destiny thing and all, and maybe I should overlook it. But you know, actually, I'm not going to apologize for being frustrated with this anymore than I would apologize for being angry about a depiction of an aboriginal person as a peace pipe smoking/headdress wearing/rain-dance making "How" sort of person.


Men have a good right to tell their own salvation stories. Those stories are valuable in and of themselves. Don't go tacking on some pretty girl needing rescuing to justify the telling. And, if you do want to include some pretty girl, let her tell her own damn story.

Now, go out and see it and tell me I'm wrong. Seriously. I would rather be wrong.


Matt said...

I totally agree. I'm always surprised by how often movies just keep telling the same story. I realise that there are only so many ways to tell a love story, but would it hurt to expand beyond the basic 2 or 3?

And speaking of bad people, I still owe you commentary. What are you up to over reading week?

Angela said...

taking you out for a coffee and a critique of my essay, that's what i'm up to, good person.

cecily said...

Damn. You ruined it for me.

Well not quite! We saw it two nights ago and I am still processing the experience. All I can say is 'confronting'. But I think you are totally right - the girl is a token thing for romantic movie appeal. Sigh.

I was talking to a friend the other day, and he is mid-way through the book and won't watch the movie until he's read the book. The girl, who is such a strong presence all the way through the movie, isn't even in the book. Sounds like there is much more confronting drama than in the movie though. He is struggling to deal with all the horror.

cecily said...

PS I read this post to Frank and he said 'She's good. She's right you know' about your piece. He would like to add that he didn't like the ending... the whole 'kiss me' thing just didn't do it for him, and the Bollywood dancing seemed out of place. Maybe - I'm a bit 'all for dancing' myself, but he has a point.

Aaron Stewart said...

There is such a thing as cultural context as well and like it or not that is the situation many women in India are in. You are wrong.

Angela said...

cecily, shoot. i didn't mean to ruin it for you. ya, i thought the kiss was lame, too, but THE DANCING! i loved it. i love that sort of crazy, let's break into a dance bollywood stuff.

thanks for trying, aaron. but nope. no success.
my issue is exactly your point. the "reality" of being a woman in india or otherwise is not realized simply by her presence in the film. the complexities of telling the story of marginalized people is a tricky thing, but to have no other narratives available except those that diminish those complexities by painting a pretty face over it all is insulting. i don't argue the fact that many woman in the world are in positions of helplessness, i don't want to, as much as i hate that reality. but these sorts of films don't portray the reality of that story anymore than disney princesses speak to a truthful definition of woman. latika is a cardboard cutout of an impoverished indian woman and we are satisfied with that version of woman because we know how that story ends: the prince rescues her and it's all happily ever after. now, i don't even have a problem with the rescuing. sometimes we need to be rescued, or, at least, supported in our own rescuing, i do have a problem with thinking that this flat, simplified image of women is adequate and honest.

Janna said...

My husband John LOVED this movie. You might have seen his review on his, hamster's and myles' movie review website. We argued after the movie because I didn't quite see what he saw. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time. I thought maybe I was just being cynical, finding it hard to believe he loved her like that, that much, after what? two weeks, when they were 6 yrs. old?!

Now I think that what you've pointed out is part of it. Her character WAS totally flat, no depth, just a pretty face.

And. Don't apologize for your feminism.

Cherie said...

The thing that gripes me about men rescuing women is that they, being rescuers, also have the power to throw them aside at their whims. Poor helpless little females.


The movie is on my list of To-Sees. I'll be thinking of you - and your readers.

Angela said...

janna, i don't have problems believing in the love story. if i've learned anything, i've learned how ridiculously unreasonable love is. hey, but ask him what he thinks of the whole cardboard cutout of a woman bit. i'd like to know.

so i've been thinking of this whole rescue thing. it's tricky, hey? i'm tring to understand how there are some things in my own life i am powerless to "rescue" myself from and need help with, and that there are also some things i could easily look to someone else to save me from when i should be doing it myself. i think i swallowed that worm on a hook that said i needed to save/heal myself by myself, so now i'm rethinking that. people need people. the "how" of the needing is the tricky bit.

danid... said...

so would the movie be better if she had a huge nose... or slightly cross eyed? I have never seen it but I think any movie would be improved with the female lead being slightly cross eyed. ok ok... think on that & the next time you watch a move imagine Nicole or Reese or Kate slightly cross eyed. I think that that your enjoyment of the movie will increase tenfold...

Angela said...

you are dorky-ness squared.

Cherie said...

Ya, the how is the tricky bit. The after effect is where it gets hard. I mean the character of the rescuer is key, his/her intentions, motivation tell the tale in the end. And the rescuer's willingness to accept the help temporarily and then find his/her own determination afterwards, with a genuinely grateful heart, of course.

I'm thinking movie rescue is so one dimensional that it can't really be compared to real-life intervention-type rescues. Maybe?

i dunno.