"Sucker Punch": The Failed Feminism of Zack Snyder

by Daniel Walber
March 25, 2011 12:31 PM
29 Comments
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Much of the imagery in “Sucker Punch” could be taken directly from a high quality video game, and that not only includes the epic genre-inspired action sequences but also the cast of young, sultry stars. Babydoll (Emily Browning) and her cohort of teenage pin-up types fill the screen with the sort of sexualized violence one could expect from “Tomb Raider” or “Street Fighter” or really any other video game with women fighting. And as is often pointed out, simply giving female characters weapons and fishnets and then sending them on a mission to blow up some bad guys does not exactly create empowered and self-actualized female characters. Rather, this whole method of portraying women as strong, violent and badass superhero types is problematic at its core, and it completely trips up any positive representation “Sucker Punch” might have given us.

Yet it’s clear that Zack Snyder has not quite figured that out. The impression one gets watching this movie is that its writer/director thinks he’s done something positive in his portrayal of these women, and has given us some genuinely independent and self-actualized characters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way. It’s also important to note that this is Snyder’s first original story after a career of adaptations, despite how much it seems to be based on a comic book or video game. This is his personal contribution to the representation of women in action movies, and it’s a bit iffy.

The video game angle has been covered extensively elsewhere, but it’ll help to just rehash it briefly here. “Sucker Punch” is structured like a video game, and it feels that way watching it. Babydoll is introduced to us in the beginning of the film (interestingly without actually speaking until about 20 minutes in) fighting off her abusive stepfather, who throws her into an asylum. If she doesn’t escape, she’s going to get a forced lobotomy in one week. To cope, she creates a dream world for herself that takes the form of a brothel/burlesque, where she meets her fellow prisoners. They need four items to arrange their escape, which they acquire by using distraction: Babydoll dances seductively and her friends snatch the objects. Of course we don’t see these dances, as to our protagonist they seem like richly designed action sequences, period-set battles in which she and the crew shoot their way to victory.

So there are three levels, which cast the women in three different roles: mental patients, dancers/prostitutes, and video-game-styled warriors. This gets problematic pretty quickly. The asylum, of course, brings up the classic issue of female hysteria. Babydoll may not be legitimately insane (though the entire movie is her hallucination, which can’t be a good sign), but her friends may very well be there for more concrete reasons. You’ve essentially got an entire cast of heroes that start out as implied hysterics.

And then they enter this odd realm of hyper-sexuality, in which they’re all expected to be burlesque performers and whores. One could wonder why this whole middle level is even necessary; couldn’t those fancy action sequences work fine from her imagination in the asylum, without the intervening brothel? Of course, that would have the cast running around in hospital garb instead of corsets, and that just wouldn’t do.

And more importantly, while I get that this added layer of awesome video game adventure is supposed to help the women fight back against oppressive male domination, the actual plot of their escape from the brothel is dependent on using sexuality as a distraction. Babydoll’s weapon isn’t her AK-47 or her ingenuity, it’s her hips, and her dance moves are portrayed as this extraordinarily impressive tool which is the best and only way to fight back against the men.

Also, in the brothel sequences the men have much more power and brutality than the women: not only is their boss/jailer, Blue (Oscar Isaac), much harsher than any of the beasts they fight in the action sequences, but Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) goes from being a doctor in the asylum to a powerless dance instructor who runs the cabaret. She feels week in response to Blue’s domineering manner, and at one point he even declares that he “owns” all of them, Dr. Gorski included. His violence can be hard to watch, yet for much of the film she persists in trusting and obeying him, until in the end he simply reduces her to tears.

Now, I believe that Zack Snyder is actively trying here to create a positive female protagonist with an empowering narrative. Clearly, with all of the above evidence, he’s failed. But I think more can be learned from this than just “Zack Snyder made a sexist movie, and thus you should not see it.” His effort here is to show a positive story of women trying to emancipate themselves from the violence of abusive men through classic video game badassery. This happens a lot in cinema, trying to create a positive female narrative by showing the growth of strength in women who begin the story under the thumb of particularly horrible male abusers.

And that focus on violence as a means of reversing a paradigm of abuse is the source of Snyder’s problem. Babydoll is completely silent at the beginning of the film and doesn’t even vocally protest being sent into the asylum against her will, because that’s not the story Snyder is telling. This isn’t about women who are already self-actualized and independent but is rather about the discovery of that potency. All of the other representational problems fall into place from there: the brothel and the asylum, the abusive Blue and submissive Dr. Gorski, the costumes and the lack of vocal resistance by the girls. There’s no effort to unpack these symbols of oppression, female hysteria, forced sexuality and fetishization. There’s only violence and the video game archetypes of dark superhero swagger, as the film tries to shoot its way out of the complexities of sexism and abuse.

In a way it’s almost a cautionary tale for those trying to write future super-heroines and female action heroes. Take notice, creators of upcoming action films; write something a bit more nuanced and conscious, and don’t let us down.



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29 Comments

  • Julia | November 13, 2013 4:50 PMReply

    I think you didn't understand the movie, which is not necessarily on you, but it definitely informed your opinion on it being objectifying and exploitative; I'll try to give you my interpretation and counterarguments, maybe you can see it in a different light.

    "The asylum, of course, brings up the classic issue of female hysteria. Babydoll may not be legitimately insane (though the entire movie is her hallucination, which can’t be a good sign), but her friends may very well be there for more concrete reasons. You’ve essentially got an entire cast of heroes that start out as implied hysterics."

    Women being wrongly institutionalized and abused in mental facilities was actually a pretty real thing up until the 70s. Plus, fantasies and metaphors don't necessarily equal hallucinations. More importantly, only one character is real, which is Sweet Pea, so, no, there are not 4 characters who are implied hysterics.
    Sweat Pea has been institutionalized (if wrongly so is not clear, since the narration of the fact is hers) in an abusive facility for accidentally killing her sister and assigned a lobotomy. She fantasizes of a way out by creating characters which represent parts of herself, including her own infatilized, bimbofied avatar, which is Babydoll.

    "And then they enter this odd realm of hyper-sexuality, in which they’re all expected to be burlesque performers and whores. One could wonder why this whole middle level is even necessary; couldn’t those fancy action sequences work fine from her imagination in the asylum, without the intervening brothel? Of course, that would have the cast running around in hospital garb instead of corsets, and that just wouldn’t do."

    No. The whorehouse layer is there link the levels of fantasy with some sort of coherence (asylum=abuse and removal of agency; whorehouse= abuse and removal of agency in the form of rape and sexual exploitation; videogame (which is babydoll's dance)= sexual exploitation, potentially turned around on the oppressor as a mean of liberation), it would have a completely different meaning if there was no whorehouse and no dance; the whorehouse is the core of the message.

    "And more importantly, while I get that this added layer of awesome video game adventure is supposed to help the women fight back against oppressive male domination, the actual plot of their escape from the brothel is dependent on using sexuality as a distraction. Babydoll’s weapon isn’t her AK-47 or her ingenuity, it’s her hips, and her dance moves are portrayed as this extraordinarily impressive tool which is the best and only way to fight back against the men."

    That's the entire point of the movie, women trying to turned around their own sexual oppression, claim it and use it against their oppressor in order to liberate themselves. Spoiler: it doesn't really work.

    "Also, in the brothel sequences the men have much more power and brutality than the women: not only is their boss/jailer, Blue (Oscar Isaac), much harsher than any of the beasts they fight in the action sequences, but Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) goes from being a doctor in the asylum to a powerless dance instructor who runs the cabaret. She feels week in response to Blue’s domineering manner, and at one point he even declares that he “owns” all of them, Dr. Gorski included. His violence can be hard to watch, yet for much of the film she persists in trusting and obeying him, until in the end he simply reduces her to tears."

    Again, this is Sweet Pea own fantasy/metaphor to what's happening in the asylum, when Blue does in fact "own" the Doctor, as he's running an elaborate scheme being her back and she's, for the time being, powerless to it.

    " His effort here is to show a positive story of women trying to emancipate themselves from the violence of abusive men through classic video game badassery. This happens a lot in cinema, trying to create a positive female narrative by showing the growth of strength in women who begin the story under the thumb of particularly horrible male abusers."

    No, he doing the exact opposite, he's showing the attempt of women to obtain liberation though the use of their sexuality/turning their own objectification around and its failure. How it as all a delusion. Sweat Pea only deludes herself to believe she's getting (this is clear from the boy in the bus being also in the videogame reality) free through her Babydoll avatar, but it is fact a delusion.

  • goldenmonkey | July 3, 2012 12:31 AMReply

    I do get the points of both sides of this discussion, but what strikes me most as a feature of the film having rather less subversive potential is that the women still need the help of a man to act out Babydoll's plan. It's the old law-of-the-father-type story which makes it impossible for me to believe that these women possess true agency. One of the "Wise Man"'s quotes is "...Remember ladies, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything...". It's a pity that they need to be told that instead of finding it out for themselves on their journey to empowerment.

  • Mike | June 12, 2012 11:35 PMReply

    So, you know, I notice as soon as a woman wears a skimpy outfit, it's blatant sexualization, and is horribly wrong, but as soon as Brad Pitt takes his shirt off in fight club, he's sexy. Furthermore, when have men's rights ever been respected or shown in film? Most of the time, we see men wearing form-fitting outfits just like women do, but they never get blasted for it. There's definitely a double-standard among the feminist community, and I'm frankly sick of it.

  • Kira | August 1, 2012 2:03 PM

    Your comment is the definition of missing the point. Congratulations, you just became the Privilege Denying Guy of this thread.

  • ??? | February 9, 2012 5:37 AMReply

    Give me an amen if you think the girl looks like a pornstar....

  • San | September 16, 2011 10:51 AMReply

    I loved the movie and I'm a woman! I thought the film was like a fight club for women and I've been waiting for a film like this ever since fight club came out. Its not particularly a feel good film, I think its a commentary on things women have to deal with in society. Whereas Fight club made it clear, Sucker punch didn't make it as clear but the message is the same. Fight club is about men struggling for their place in society, Sucker punch is about women and their struggles for their place in society. Both protanganists in each film find a 'solution' to the problem which involves imaginary people and self destructive behaviours.

    People try to make a point by saying - why was their so many action sequences aimed at men - who says they are aimed at men? Now whos being sexist? I enjoyed the action sequences.
    Why were the girls dressed so sexy? You didn't have the pan up and down kind of camera angles that other films have (male gaze) and I didn't particularly think they were dressed any more provacatively than any other film about dancing. Plus if it is a commentary on women in society leaving sexy clothes out of the film would be a dishonest representation. To me they were just clothes, like a man can wear shorts and not be sexualized, the sexualization happens with the music, camera angles and in the viewers mind. This did not happen in the film and did not happen in my mind. I did not think it was sexualized. They were attractive clothes and attractive women but they were not objectified in the film and therefore this is a non-issue for me.

  • LilithXIV | May 13, 2011 1:16 AMReply

    'I don't want to be that guy' Except you're going to be anyway so in some way you /do/ want to be that guy. I dislike when people lie about that kind of stuff.

    And finally, please stop the whole ' it was irony, satire' excuse, especially if it fails to be those things with it's half-hearted and generally sloppy execution. Don't tell people they didn't get it, maybe instead you didn't deliver it to them well enough? It doesn't critique anything, it just indulges in it. That you needed to go so far into analyzing, that you had to dig deeper, is the whole problem, it's just noise to everyone else and therefore it fails to teach anything.

    Also... Yemo is a misogynistic toolbox with clearly no knowledge how feminism works with their stereotyped ideas of what men and women are. Pretty ignorant of social influences too it seems, ugh, gender essentialism turns my stomach.

  • Spenser | April 13, 2011 8:16 AMReply

    I don't want to be *that guy*, but I don't think that most of the people posting in this thread really "got" the film. Snyder is a brilliant director, and if you treated 300, for example, with the same lack of depth as you have Sucker Punch, it would be a fascist film rather than an indictment of militarism and Orientalism.

    The original review is correct in its central assertion--that the fight sequences and sexualized violence in general do not represent an appropriate reaction to patriarchy--but incorrect in its conclusion. As you say, the fight scenes are very clearly equated with stripping, which is the most obvious act of objectification presented in the film.

    The viewer of the film is placed in the same role as the Mayor or any other one of Blue's clients--you're meant to recognize that your enjoyment of these fight scenes is a similar act of commodification and exploitation. Snyder is making a statement about both shallow attempts at female "liberation" and the male gaze that pervades the comic and sci-fi worlds.

    The film's frequent commentary on itself is excellent proof of this reading. My favorite example is Sweet Pea's first few lines after the switch from mental hospital to brothel. She is costumed as Babydoll and says something along the lines of "I get the whole 'helpless mental patient' thing, we're just trying to turn them on, but a lobotomy? Really?" while she's is on stage performing in a show (like the one you're watching). Sort of like one of Shakespeare's plays within a play.

    Next, you've asked whether the brothel setting is necessary to convey the film's message. I honestly wonder what the message would be without the brothel--the equation of the mental institution, which, as you have pointed out, brings up notions of female hysteria and is fundamentally a way to deny women agency and rationality, with the sexual objectification of women is the film's central method of critique. Indeed, the way that Snyder makes the same point as this reviewer is by making his fight scenes instances of this objectification.

    Small note re: Dr. Gorski - I simply read the character as a woman in power who goes along with an exploitative system out of either self-interest or misplaced "pragmatism" or a combination thereof, which I think can be said of many contemporary Americans and patriarchy/capitalism.

    Finally, I think that this review and attending discussion fail entirely to consider the film's ending. Which I guess is inevitable if you write this off as "kiddie porn" (which is an incredibly ignorant and reductionist viewpoint that I'm disappointed to see from an artist--would you dismiss Swift's "A Modest Proposal" as satire because eating babies grosses you out? Grow up) and refuse to see it, or maybe if you don't want to reveal spoilers, which is reasonable. The next paragraph contains spoilers.

    The way that Babydoll forces the system to change is by making it confront its own excesses. As the doctor (played by the same guy as Don Draper... brilliant) says, the look in her eyes shows that she WANTS the lobotomy. Babydoll does exactly what Snyder attempts to in his film--she takes the demands of her society, for a passive and sexually objectified woman, to their logical extreme and thus reveals the oppressive nature of these expectations.

    Babydoll got Dr. Gorski to call the police and end what seemed to be systemic abuse of women at the mental hospital. Snyder has succeeded only in being misunderstood.

  • Angela | April 7, 2011 9:22 AMReply

    Yay I can see I am not the only one who thought all the sexy eye make up and sexy sexy costumes were completely unneccessary. Was cool to see these girls in the action sequences, but it could have seen such a better film if they cut out the whole brothel/burlesque house and all the hypersexualisation of the women.

  • Disco Biscuit | April 3, 2011 8:53 AMReply

    I'm not really sure I understand the whole thread. Was 300 sexist towards men? (because they had very little clothes on for the whole film). But hey I thought it was a great action film... hold on, should I have been surfing the net after to start posting male sexism rants. No, there's probably loads of posts about 300 being sexist towards women as they're not peripheral enough in the film.

    I know let's see if Zak will remake 300 with women wearing leather thongs...... i'd go see that too and everyone will be happy then... oh, sorry they won't be though. :S

    ...... I can't believe i got sucked into posting about it... fail.

  • Person#2 | March 30, 2011 3:48 AMReply

    So whats it mean when women do like the movie and find it empowering and the sexy, fun and kinda subversive?
    We must all have been adolescent male sex/violence fantasy freaks I guess.

    Oh plz someone tell me how wrong those poor misguided wom... girls are.

  • Loved sucker punch | March 28, 2011 10:48 AMReply

    @penny. Bravo my friend, I could have never said it that eloquently but agree 100%

  • Donovan | March 28, 2011 10:27 AMReply

    The trailers for Sucker Punch were designed to draw in nerdy males and the movie itself was designed to shame nerdy males. That's the sucker punch. This movie is not feminism for women, it's feminism for men that have no concept of feminism.

  • Daniel Walber | March 28, 2011 3:51 AMReply

    @Penny
    While I do use the word "probably," Snyder has actually on multiple occasions talked about his intentions to create empowered female characters in the film. Here's a quote from over at io9.com:

    "Everything in the movie is about a show within a show within a show. Someone asked me, "Why did you dress the girls like that, in those provocative costumes?" And I said, "Well, think about it for a second. I didn't dress those girls in the costume. The audience dressed those girls." And when I say the audience, I mean the audience that comes to the movies. Just like the men who visit a brothel, [they] dress the girls when they go to see these shows as however they want to see them.

    But my hope was that they would take those things back, just like my girls hopefully get confidence, they get strength through each other, that those become power icons. They start out as cliches of feminine sexuality as made physical by what culture creates. I think that part of it was really specific, whether it's French maid or nurse or Joan Arc to a lesser extent [laughs], or schoolgirl. Our hope is we were able to modify them and turn them into these power icons, where they can fight back at the actual cliches that they represent. So hopefully by the end the girls are empowered by their sexuality and not exploited. But certainly that's where they come from, the journey is asking, "What do you want to see? Well, be careful what you want to see."

  • Penny McGinness | March 28, 2011 3:21 AMReply

    I am going to be completely honest I stopped reading this review two-three paragraphs in because, honestly, its crap. I am a female, a strong independent women and I am telling you, that you are full of crap. This is first and foremost a cult film, it was never marketed as a pro-feminist film. Who cares if they are mental patients, whores, or warriors. I watched this movie with my husband who was probably more aroused at the sexuality then the violence or the plot but I'm not getting on my soap box and complaining. Are you offended because these chicks are more attractive than you? I am tired of people trying to find hidden meaning in fictional entertainment. If you don't like it don't watch it, simple enough. You state that you believe Zach Snyder was probably trying to create an empowered female protagonist, but do you know that? Have you asked him what he was trying to create? I think he created a cult film that obviously grabbed your attention enough to rant about it on the internet and to me he was very successful. Without creating any non-existent assumptions about the movie as a whole I fucking loved it. Who doesn't want to kick ass and look sexy doing it? Lets talk about more concrete problems with our society instead of the problems with fictional works meant to grab our attention and entertain us. Were you not entertained? It seemed pretty clear by the trailer that this was gonna be a movie about scantily clad women kicking ass. Where do you get off saying this is at all a reference to pedophilia? I believe as soon as she reaches the asylum and her stepfather is filling out the forms that he puts her age as 20. Regardless if this is true or not you are making assumptions that are both radical and ridiculous. Do you have any idea what really happens to pedophiles in our society? In the justice system? They get probation, they get very little jail time, most of them do not register as they are required to, and most of them re-offend. So fuck off, and stop trying to create issues with a FICTIONAL work of cinema. Get off your soapbox and either enjoy it for what it is or don't go see it. Don't get on the internet and post opinionsthat are way off base and ludicrous. Did you feel more empowered by posting this review. I hope so, because I am sad that I wasted time reading and I hate that you got under my skin enough for me to reply. So I am going to get off my soap box and go look for pictures of Emily Browning because...well she's hot in this film.

  • opantxmFAN | March 27, 2011 5:17 AMReply

    suckerpunch is a action movie for guys. STOP with this empowerment febot movement crap and do something with your lives. that's empowerment

  • Yemo | March 27, 2011 4:30 AMReply

    @ Bess Gordon.

    Men are also abused and more frequently than you might expect. It is just we men have an established coping mechanism in dealing with abuse. Women need to find their own coping mechanism other than copying men's ways in dealing with the world. I was frequently beaten and abused by my mother while growing up, but I am just as functioning as any other man. Unfortunately, if this happened to a women, she will go on a Jihad against men, and she will become as cold or even colder than men.

    Women have their unique coping mechanism to abuse. They congregate and form a support system to heal, nurture and restore social order especially within the family or community. If you go to a remote village in Africa, you will see these characteristic among the women. It is a constant cycle of healing and nurturing which actually makes the women stronger, and brings out the best in men. Any man who misbehaves is expelled from the village by the male peers in other to protect the inhabitants of the village. It even happens in the animal kingdom. It is a natural phenomenon that has been destroyed by feminism.

    As an African observing the American society, I am shocked by the insurmountable task that feminism has placed on women. What women didn't get was that they were already perfect. Instead of women changing themselves in to hunters, they should have changed men instead. Feminism should have been about changing men instead women. If this were the case, the movement would have achieved great success. In Africa, women don't change...they are instead changing to suit their needs. Something western women need to learn.

  • Loved suckerpunch | March 26, 2011 11:40 AMReply

    I guess after reading this your kind of right on most points, but it never really came across that way when I was watching it. It just came across as this poor group of oppressed women trying to escape reality by using a less harsh ( still terrible ) perception of reality.
    Personally I think it was a great story of self sacrifice and the skimpy outfits were just another tool they used to get the butts in the seats. I wouldn't change a thing about this movie... But then again I'm not a woman screaming Sexist!!!
    I do understand where your coming from though. When Zack directed 300 I caught hell because I didnt have abs like Gerard butler... Those leather man thongs still haunt my nightmares.

  • Sean Palmer | March 26, 2011 10:46 AMReply

    @Daniel Walber, it's clear you have no idea why the second layer (the brothel) even exists in this movie. Next time you write a review, how about actually making sure you know what it's about before going to press.

    @Audrey Ewell: As a film director, I'm sure you can appreciate that the people who make trailers have very different goals in mind than the people who make movies. I agree that the trailers and posters are offensive, but I can say firsthand that the characters in the movie are nothing like that.

  • GFR | March 26, 2011 10:29 AMReply

    You people are idiots

    Complaints about hollywood using the sexualization of women to sell movies only make sense if women don't use their sexuality to advance themselves in every day life.

    OF COURSE THEY DO...

    Wome LOVE high-heels but it's not because hollywood told them to, and it's not because they're comfortable. It's because it makes their legs look better - and that's what they want.

    Women use their sexuality to manipulate men 24/7. Women have always done this, and they do it now in every culture on earth.

    Complaining about hollywood using sex is hypocritical - but modern women ARE hypocritical - they want to have power over men, and at the same time view themselves as victims. They've also abrogated all responsibility for maintaining family structure (the basis for every society), and raising the next generation.

    Legalize prostitution - and BRING ON THE FEMBOTS !!!

  • J.P. | March 26, 2011 8:06 AMReply

    Good article. And to think Snyder had the gall to call Sucker Punch "Alice in Wonderland with machine guns." Nothing could be further from the truth, especially since with "Alice" it was about using her smarts rather than skimpy outfits and machine guns.

    The irony of all this is that there's another (and better) movie playing alongside SP in theaters right now that does more for the empowered-female genre: "Jane Eyre." Yep.

  • Laura | March 26, 2011 6:32 AMReply

    I completely agree that it has little to recommend itself as a feminist film. It's just another male fantasy with the premise that if it's about women doing the killing then it must be feminist.

  • Micheal Corrison | March 26, 2011 4:51 AMReply

    lets not pretend men dont have sexism to face in the media either.
    a women rapes or sexual harasses a man, and its "hahaha!"
    penis jokes, emasculation, its all too common.
    dont forget, it was men being massively slaughtered in the dream world.

    in the real world, men are conscrirpted, newborn boys rae circumcised, women get less jail time for the same crime, in many places men have to retire older, women get 15x more federal funding for cancer, domestic abuse laws almost always favor women, even when she is the abuser, etc.

    there are actually very few things in our society that make sense. with religion, political correctness, monetary systems, the delusion of democracy, and nationalist competition, people have been blinded from the truth: everyone and everything is completely fucked, regardless of gender, race, religion, whatever. you could solve the womens rights or mens rights or blacks rights crisis, and 95% of your day to day life would still be pointless service to some ridiculous social norm or unquestioned tradition.

  • K-Squizzled | March 26, 2011 4:38 AMReply

    So basically we're getting female "empowerment" seen through (and undermined by) the blurry, blurry lens of adolescent male sex/violence fantasy, unburdened by such niceties as a coherent plot or characters that have more than one dimension.

    Knowing Snyder's past work, I can't say I'm exactly surprised.

  • Audrey Ewell http://www.blackmetalmovie.com | March 25, 2011 8:12 AMReply

    The ad campaign alone is gross and the most offensive part is that they're trying to sell this pervy old man's pedophile fantasy as being somehow “empowering” for girls. That's a bit pathetic. The audience grab here is for little boys, pedophiles, and girls who don't value themselves enough to even object to the objectification on display. F#*k that. I'm absolutely voting with my wallet, and that vote is: people who make slut-girl fantasy porn and try to pass it off as empowerment can suck it; I’m not buying.

    Interestingly, while the movies has a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the biggest negative that is exhaustively detailed in reviews, again and again, is the jumpy storyline, not the offensive usurping of girl empowerment; sorry boys, but you can't claim empowerment when you're selling a film on the strength of all the hot young, scantily clad, (abused) girls running around in it. And hey, critics, how about spending more time on this?!

    I decided to get some reactions from actual girls, those I know and a few I don’t, to randomize things a little. It's not scientific, but then, so what? Here are their reactions.

    A girl I don't know, on a friend's facebook wall: "I've had no desire to see this movie... It was really the perverse tonality the ads have had that have really put me off from the movie. The main actress looks like a porn star in a school girl uniform."

    Another girl I don’t know, on Twitter: "Suckerpunch = action packed kiddie porn."

    A woman I know who runs a booking agency said this when we saw the trailer together before Battle Los Angeles. "Gross."

    A female lawyer friend: "So offensive."

    And this, from a woman I know who works with girls who have body-image related health concerns: "As long as people watch this crap, they'll keep making them."

    Now consider this tweet, found about halfway down the first page of search results for #suckerpunch: “Fuck Yess!! Going to watch Suckerpunch tonight :D Eeee gunna seee some chicks in sexy outfits. FIGHT! Yesssssssssssssss!!” The girl who tweeted this looked to be about 13 years old.

    And then I see the last tweet, at the bottom of the page, from a girl who truly looks to be about 9 years old, and whose name contained the word “cupcake”: “#suckerpunch i wanna see it!!!!! im the asian amber”

    Nice one guys. Now you might wonder why I’d waste my time going after such an easy target. Such an easy, 85 million dollar target, likely to be the weekend’s highest grossing film come Monday. Meanwhile, films like Fish Tank and the Oscar-approved Winter’s Bone, with their complicated, nuanced female characters, are relegated to comparatively miniscule budgets and limited releases.

    The bottom line here is that no matter what else is going on in this movie, this aspect of the film is so corrosively gross that no girl I know cares to put their eyes on it. Yet it's feminist...? Is Zach Snyder actually living in some alternate reality?

    I really hope this movie tanks. But... it won't, will it? And there’ll be another like it, and another.

    It’ll keep going until people understand that what's being sold as the "empowerment of girls" is really just titillation for man-boys.

    So, what a nice change of pace this review is.

    I'm a female film director by the way, my last film, Until The Light Takes Us, was about a violent music scene, I play video games (a lot), I love genre films and thrillers, and I am disgusted by this steaming pile of big budget kiddie porn.

  • ska-triumph | March 25, 2011 7:21 AMReply

    Yes yes yes. I so applaud you and your commentary here.

    You point out exactly how the very premise and plot structure that SUCKER PUNCH hangs on is unstable for any feminist subtext. The story is, plainly, not well-told. Even with a video-game framework, characterizations for the women - like why each of them are in the asylum; what each women brings to the liberation fight - are lazily lacking. You couldn't even legitimize a video game, as-is.

  • Bess Goden | March 25, 2011 7:09 AMReply

    Although I'm sure you're right that this movie was probably more offensive than women empowering, I always find it gratifying when a women is allowed to indulge in mindless, violent fantasy. Let's face it, culture does not encourage violent outlets for women, but we absolutely have those impulses the same as men do. Not to get into a rehashing of feminist theory, but because society doesn't encourage our violent side, we are forced to take it out through passive aggressive behavior, rumor mongering and the like. The ladies are vicious, it's very much past time the world comes to terms with that.

    Especially if the violence is in response to abuse, I'm sure millions of closeted victims would love a good violent payback fantasy. Look at most of the media related to sexual abuse, it's either the woman suffers in silence only to be finally rescued by a concerned male, or they get retribution through a nonviolent method, generally getting the guy in question arrested. That's all well and good, and believe me I'm not trying to say that violence in any respect is the best answer to a problem in real life. However, none of this is very satisfying, sometimes women don't want to be the better person or turn the other cheek, sometimes we want to fight back on the same level. I'd like to see a movie where a man get's sexually abused, and in response he goes through a long legal battle amid patches of tears and hugging. You won't see that ever. If a man is sexually abused in the media, the male audience at large would riot if there wasn't an emotionally equivalent violent resolution. This is because abuse makes you not only feel extremely violated and wronged, but it also makes you feel dominated and inferior/insecure. To regain the power a man should rightfully have, he would need to exact his revenge in the most gruesome possible manner.

    Why in this day and age, should it be any different for a woman? Women are used to being vulnerable? Suffering in silence? So were the Jews, but eventually they got Israel. This movie, I'm sure, isn't a feminist Israel, but anytime I see a woman kicking the crap out of a guy, or toting a gun, I feel our equality meter boosts a couple of notches, (despite over sexualization). Quentin Terrantino's movies would probably be a much better comparison, he does a lot more for feminism in this line than anyone gives him credit for.

  • Vaxine | March 25, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    Digging deeper into violent women as represented in cinema is a great book "THE VIOLENT WOMAN" by Hillary Neroni.

  • TII | March 25, 2011 1:56 AMReply

    U got a point, but i still love the movie

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