Monday, April 4, 2011

Sucker Punch. Yeah, really.

Sorry it's been a while, oh blog. I still owe you posts about my future and religion and things like that, I think. But first I'm going to talk about Sucker Punch because I remember it.

So Sucker Punch. Getting bad reviews. Was worried going in to it, but it was a last-minute decision for $5, and at the very least the visuals looked wonderful, so I thought why not. Zack Snyder has sometimes let me down (as a classicist, 300 was iffy), but Watchmen and the implausibly-good remake of Dawn of the Dead convinced me that he could make a damn good movie under the right conditions. So I was in.

Or I should add, the fact that the visuals included some pretty, doll-looking girls in skimpy outfits being badasses in an anime-esque manner helped considerably. Also made me worried about the exploitative or patronizing content, but I was in anyway.

Visuals? Awesome in my book. That was pretty much guaranteed – I don't know if he's made a not-gorgeous movie, actually. Very video game in a good way. I also appreciated the look of the girls, while definitely artificial and bordering on jail-bait; I'm not one to reject the impossibly-beautiful depictions of men or women in art, even low art – big difference between this and digitally-enhanced women on magazine covers for young girls, I think. Feel free to disagree. The outfits were lovely. I might have preferred at least one butch character, gay or not, but I'm fine with what I got. Didn't see it in 3-D or anything, but I was happy with what I got and fuck 3-D anyway. Also, Spartacus: Blood and Sand prepared me for the abuse of slow-mo, but it was a little annoying I guess.

Story? Who the fuck cares, honestly. It wasn't amazing. There were a laughable amount of cliches and very little – maybe none – of the plot wasn't predictable. Even the “sucker punch” (HAHA I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE MR. SNYDER) of the ending wasn't that suckery punchery. I loved the idea and a great deal of the execution, actually. I liked the iterative quality of the plot – 3 fantasies embedded in each other in a much less sophisticated way than Inception, quest for 5 items, 5 girls to go through, etc. Considering that the story was impressively created by Snyder and a co-writer, it was rather good. Mostly if one is able to have fun with it, laugh at a reasonable amount of the pathos, and suspend some goddamn disbelief.

Content? It was clear early on that, as usual with Snyder, realism was not a priority. Which, once again, is fine. This is a fantasy in more than a few ways – sexual, story-wise, etc. Anyone expecting a clearly empowering or Kill Bill-esque story of vengeance will be disappointed. But this story was somewhat tailor-made to Felice, I must say. It is fucking absurd in just the way that I enjoy. Beyond ridiculous, sometimes trashy, often campy and aesthetically-minded. The perfect mix of stereotypical femininity, empowering kick-ass-ness, and cheesecake that is clearly represented by the pin-ups that litter my bedroom walls. I like different mixes, like that in Baise-Moi or Lady Vengeance or the Millennium trilogy, but this was acceptable in ways that didn't make me puke. Yes they wear short skirts and ridiculously fight in heels and grunt like porn stars and never have so much as a hair out of place or a blemish on their porcelain skin, but they respond to being victims by fighting back on their own, oddly without the help of a male hero (unless you count the sensei, Leonard-Nemoy-looking guy) and without being subjugated by them very often without serious revenge. I anticipate mostly no one will agree with this assessment, but that's all good.

Another plausible reason this was so appealing to me is a peculiar fantasy of mine which I know is shared by at least a few others. In the right mindset – depressed, feeling powerless, feeling like a badass mofo – as I walk in public, a part of me desperately desires to be confronted. On a dark street I want to be intimidated by a mugger, someone bigger than me, often a man (not to be sexist, but my history of fearing men as a child and hating my gender for years is the root of this), or be physically attacked, mugged, whatever. And I want to fight the fuck back. I want to pound them into the ground while yelling and not taking any shit or being a victim. Maybe this would be a later vigilante quest, but ideally I'd just like to tear them down right there. Kill them. Do my ego proud. Do my paranoid, agoraphobic father proud by being the resilient, powerful daughter he made me into.

Am I really going to be attacked this way? Probably not. Or maybe plausibly so, I really don't know. I try not to let it happen, even when I test the water to vaguely hope I will. At least I've been verbally berated from afar, and responded often in-line with this aggressive desire of mine; that feels good. Am I likely to respond this way to actually being attacked? I'm not really sure. I've lapsed hard in my physical strength, my martial arts training, my fighting instincts. I know the smart moves – to give the money over, be vigilant and report the incident, don't necessarily resist to avoid being hurt further or killed. I imagine I'd occasionally look back on such an event and feel ashamed, regret not living out that odd fantasy. Would I be na├»ve and irresponsible to take the other approach? Could I decide reasonably well in the moment? Would I actually win? I just don't know. I'm good at judging situations. Beyond that, I don't know.

I know this is a somewhat common fantasy, to some extent. It's a response to feeling weak, being abused in the past, feeling powerless, resenting one's gender or the position it puts you in sometimes. Sometimes it's very dangerous. Sometimes it results in serious violence issues. I think I'm far short of that. But it's hard for me not to be empathetic to those who end up at that extreme.

Sometimes my fantasy has me intensely butch, being the male I often desire to be, sending out a “fuck you” to my gender and the attacker's assumptions about me, male or female. Or I'm as feminine as can be, assumed to be a victim, or one who wouldn't resist or say no, and I turn the tables and prove that it makes no goddamn difference and I don't have to “try to be male” to defend myself or prove my strength. The latter is no doubt why Sucker Punch was appealing to me. Even though the girls go through intense abuse, are forced to be victims for a while, come off that way often, and wear those ridiculous outfits, they DO fight back in a very real and “fuck you” way. They aren't masculine at all. It doesn't matter. They don't always win and there are serious repercussions, even in this ridiculous fantasy world that bypasses most consequences. The ending is predictably not unambiguously happy. The movie is, I will readily admit, not brilliant or original in a lot of ways. But goddamn do I appreciate this aspect of it. It's living out that fantasy, without having to lament the fact that I don't look like them, can't, will never be an anime doll with a short skirt who wields a sword against a rapist. It's a rare opportunity to live through the version of the fantasy that doesn't appeal to my butch side (which I still love), that makes me embrace being female and even feminine without resentment. It avoids most of the traps of the victim who fights back but in patronizing and debasing ways, or who responds with seriously fucked up methods (which I sometimes appreciate), undignified methods, things like extortion and taking advantage of stereotypes and filling so many others. Or maybe I'm forgiving too much to convince myself it's OK to like this pulpy, ridiculous film. Or maybe I'm still annoyed that the woman in I Spit on Your Grave felt the need to have consensual sex with her rapists before killing them in an uncomfortably exploitative way.

So those are my ranting thoughts and one of my odd fantasies that I felt the need to share with only a little embarrassment. I liked Sucker Punch. I recommend it with a shit-load of reservations. You could listen to my recommendation if you want. But I DID think Machete was awesome, so I probably don't know what the fuck I'm talking about.

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