Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sin City

Last night, after Liz got home from work, we met up with a dear friend and walked around the neighborhood a bit. We were all in the "anything is fine" state-of-mind, which can be a problem in terms of actually walking into a place, but Liz finally saved the day by directing us into "El Mariachi". There were no guitar players there and the food was maa-maa (so-so).

As usually, I planned ahead poorly and had made some homemade pasta and ate it around 3:30, so I couldn't finish most of my meal, so I took it out. On the way back, someone sitting in a closed storefront asked me, "You aren't really going to eat that are you?" I thought of the piles of food I've cooked at home and handed her the package.

We then stopped at a Video Store and our friend wanted to see "Sin City". I was pleased--a lot of my students have recommended it, so I had been dying to see it. Liz being completely disinterested in pop culture (one of the many things I love about her) hadn't heard of it.

We picked up another friend on the way home, and settled down to watch the movie.

I guess I should've known that it was going to be one of those blood opera that Rodriguez and Taratino are known for (by the way, wouldn't Tarantino have been the best choice in the world to play Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings"? I mean they wouldn't have needed make-up or anything...

I can appreciate the artistic value of the completely unnatural, "Good guys kill hundreds of bad guys in different ways" genre. I mean I'm a Hong Kong cinema fan. Additionally, even though I don't think it's the best influence in the world, I trust my students to know the difference between fantasy macrabre and real life violence.

What I was more troubled by was the gender/racial/sexual orientation elements of the film.
I found the movie deeply troubling in the misogynist way all of the women were cast. At first I felt rage, and then when I saw the "Making of" portion of the DVD, I felt sad--here were these three brilliant, immature little boys who really weren't capable of conceiving the idea of a powerful woman whose power wasn't solely focused in her sexuality or ability to kill people based on a racial stereotype.

Well, Laura Woodhouse puts it much better than me. The women are "objects to be possessed". Peep her review of the film here.

I was curious why Woodhouse did not choose to address the ethnic/gender component of the film. After all, it was clear that the white male were the good guys who "earned" possession of the women, the few men of color were asexual, agencyless evil accessories and the women of color were most desirable women to be possessed.

It never ceases to amaze me that a director can have a brilliant, powerful woman like Rosario Dawson and choose to only utilize the fact that she looks great in PVC. I mean, they might as well use me--I can't act, but I sure look great in PVC...

I also have trouble understanding that people could still be entertained by a line like: "Lucille's my parole officer. She's a dyke, but God knows why. With that body of hers she could have any man she wants. " I know it's supposed to be cute, but the idea that Lesbians are interested in women because they can have any man they want and that a great body allows a woman to have any man they want are flat-Earther ideas. Sadly, flat-Earther ideas that a lot of people still put a lot of stock into.

I'm not even going to touch the fact that the only "yellow man" in the film was the "yellow bastard" who was a eunuch, pedophile murderer who smelled horrible and whined for his daddy all the time.

In the end, I was floored by the production of the movie. The transformation from the graphic novel to the film was seamless. The lighting and shooting was superb. And all it went for was an extremely popular, powerful vehicle to strength patriachal and racist dynamics in American society. I'm not scared that my students will watch "Sin City" and go kill a bunch of people--they are smarter than that. But I am scared that they will watch "Sin City" and replicate the very real racist, sexist and homophobic thinking in the film. I see it everyday. So many men still firmly believe that women's power is solely in their bodies and they are waiting for a tough man to "save" them from their helpless states. So many white men still believe that they are the heroes in the society who are allowed to consume women of color and that men of color are their asexual sidekicks. And they believe that LGBT people are just defective people who can't do sex the right (the misogynistic, ultra-hetero) way.

So in the end, is there really that much difference in the agenda of Kevin or the yellow bastard and Hartigan or for that matter Tarantino, Rodriguez and Frank Miller?

Sure, the latter group believes that you "treat women right" but their final goal is still to just consume the bodies they are entitled to.



Anonymous Infectious (f44s) said...

Hey xian,

Tarantino (even though he was a guest director in Sin City) is what I would call the "director of the MTV generation". His ideas and styles resonate a lot with the MTV generation - lots of memes, stylistic violence, anti-PCness - these are a lot of the ideas that are embedded into that generation's psyche. So I believe a lot of Sin City's directorial decisions were made based on the audience's reaction to that.

Is it despicable? Yes. Do you really want to blame the American public for being selfish like that (yes, I do too, but the current generation is known for its irresponsibility, or trying to push its own responsibilities onto others, which makes blaming them hard to do.)?

1:22 PM  
Blogger xian said...

Yeah, your analysis is really on-point. In this case, it's amplified by the fact that Tarantino and Rodriguez are basically from the same school, Rodriguez is just a little better at the visuals.

I'm not even sure it doesn't work in the violence area. I mean with something as easy to call as "Is it ok to dismember 1000 people?", being irresponsible can still let you make the right call.

However, when it's a question like, "How should women be treated?" or "How should ethnic minorities be perceived?" being brain-dead causes a serious problem.

I mean when you add that irresponsibility to the obvious AFS of Tarantino, it's a lethal combination.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:55 PM  
Blogger xian said...

Thanks for dropping by. Feel free to let loose with anything you want to say. I try to read and reply to everything.

4:01 AM  

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