OK I’m writing this real quick coz I need to finish my PhD application TODAY however I just spent all morning trying to unlock a new racing cup on Mario Kart and now I feel dizzy from overdoing it on Rainbow Road. In any case hopefully writing a brief post will help bridge the intellectual gap between understanding Bakhtin’s idea of dialogism and avoiding being blown up by Bowser.
|Jack hurts Peter by becoming Hook's "son"|
I watched Hook for like the millionth time last night and of course it was amazing, who can get over Rufio’s midriff shirt and the cuteness of Maggie. But while the film has snappy dialogue, detailed sets, and hilarity (Robin Williams + Dustin Hoffman = deadly combo) it was full of BOYS. (Which of course makes sense, since Peter Pan is a boy, the Lost Boys are, well, boys, and Hook and Smee are men). The original female characters from Peter Pan (Wendy, Tigerlily) have been somewhat phased out/removed, in favour of Peter’s wife Moira and his daughter Maggie. But while Moira and Maggie play reasonably significant roles in the story, they are the morally stable and consistent ones: it is Moira who remains loyal to her family while Peter gets distracted by his working life, and Maggie who remains faithful to her family while Jack gets distracted by the attentions of Hook, who convinces Jack that Peter never really loved him. Both father and son experience a crisis of ‘belonging’: once Peter realises that his “happy thought” truly is his son, he is able to fly and rescue his kids; once Jack understand he is his father’s happy thought, he apologises for betraying his father and allows himself to be saved. (At this stage, Maggie is of course already waiting to be saved and welcomes her renewed father back with open arms, just as Moira is waiting for her family to return from Neverland and welcomes her renewed husband with open arms). Marriage and family life become peaceful and whole again and father and son realise that the most important thing is loving and supporting each other.
The film is also about Captain Hook discerning his purpose (his purpose is to perpetually fight with Pan) as well as the lost boys, who are able to find a leader/father-figure in Pan again. I think the film does an effective and moving job of working through the issues associated with working through such crises, such as the need for humility and the importance of loving people in a way which puts them ahead of your own interests.
Watching Hook though, with its overwhelming amount of boys- hundreds of pirates, a large group of boy orphans, a man-hero with a conflicted son – made me ask the question: how many action/adventure films did I get to watch as a kid which featured girls? And I don’t mean just contained a token chick, but which actually portrayed the girl as the centre of the action. The films I loved as a kid were things like Hook, The Sandlot Kids, The Mighty Ducks, BMX Bandits, Aladdin, The Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, etc. Some of these contain strong female characters, such as the Connie and Tammy, the girl hockey players in the Mighty Ducks series. But other than that, not much. Others agree with me in the crisis of the female action hero - check out this Pajiba article for an argument that sounds a lot like mine, but provides an awesome and detailed list of the Best Female Action Heros! (lets just say that the fact the author puts Ripley from Alien and Sarah Connor from Terminator at the top of the list makes the author a LEGEND in my books).
|I still wana be her when I grow up.|
As a kid I didn’t really think about it that much, but as an adult (and potentially a parent one day) I would want my children, whether sons or daughters, to be exposed to films that portray male and female alike as able to participate in an action adventure. Not all little girls can faithfully sit there and await their parents to rescue them. Not all little girls should grow up to sit around at home waiting for their husband to “fix” everything (indeed: some little girls will not even get married, for a whole host of reasons). If girls can grow up to be as cool as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, they should know it from a young age and not have to wait till they’re old enough to see an R-rated film! (Meaning kids films could include broader narrative/gendered possibilities – lets not show all 3-year olds Kill Bill).
To be honest I think that at the moment, cinema is doing a reasonable job of it. Hermione in Harry Potter is great, and in those books gender has no bearing on how or whether you participate in the fight of good against evil. You also get Lindsay Lohan in the Herbie films, Alice in Wonderland (this is an oldie but a goodie) and films like Hotel for Dogs and The Spiderwick Chronicles where again, gender is not a type of set role. Even though movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and How to Train Your Dragon contain cool female pirates/dragon-fighters respectively, these girls are one out of at least 10 men: I wonder if we will ever get to a point where an action film could contain all women and not be read as a type of feminist statement, but rather just enjoyed as another possibility. I hope we get there in my lifetime.