Friday, June 17, 2011

Super 8 - Not So Great For Female Characters


I think enough time has passed that I can weigh in on this movie, which I actually saw on opening weekend!! Yes, that's worth additional exclamation points. I'm notoriously behind on movies.

Anyway, the movie was nice. I mean, the best part was that it felt like the people who made it actually cared about the movie and also cared whether or not I enjoyed it. It's just too bad that this is a rare enough feeling nowadays that I noticed it at all.

I am not going to talk plot, I just have a feminist complaint. As per usual, the women in this film act merely as a moral compass, a Reason to Go On, and as someone in need of rescuing.

Early in the film, the J.J. Abrams stand-in director kid decides to add a new character to the zombie film he's making: the detective's wife. "Why?" asks his friend. To which the director kid replies that the audience needs a reason to care about what happens to the detective. And the reason is that his wife loves him.

And that is the function the "real" women characters fill in the rest of the movie.

There's the main character's mom, who died--leaving both her child and husband bereft and unable to connect with each other. The mother is seen only in loving film shots wherein she is cuddling the main character as a baby while making doe-eyes at her husband, who is filming. She also serves as the Moral Compass for her coworker, a drunk for whom she was covering at the Plant the day she died. And for the rest of the movie, he tries to make it up to her, because she was the only person who Believed in Him. The drunk's daughter is the pretty blond girl who gets cast in the movie and becomes not only the main character's and director kid's love interest but also the Girl in Need of Rescuing.

Meanwhile the boys--all white, of course--run around filming a movie and narrowly avoiding getting blown up and whacked in the head with shrapnel. It's all just so typical. Why can't there be a girl in the mix of boys? Why can't there be some minorities, who are main characters rather than just the Smart Scientist with the Heart of Gold, who happens to!! And of course the black soldier who follows the big bad white man's orders to kill the scientist.

I don't think I'm asking too much here, I??

Note to Men: Women do NOT exist simply to give your lives--and your movies--meaning.

Edit: Here's another review by Daniel Walber at IndieWIRE that shares my opinion on this subject.


  1. I just finished watching this moving and had very similar thoughts. I get so annoyed at this myself. Why can't a young girl be the lead? It worked in "The Golden Compass" though I feel the book was not justly served in that movie.

  2. Alissa, I agree with you about The Golden Compass. I have a theory that male writers can handle female characters so long as they are "children." Then they seem to be considered more universal. Once they hit puberty, it's all over. I actually felt that way about Lyra as the series progressed as well.