Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If you were my wife . . . : Talk on "Hurt Locker"

It's that I'm still coming to grips with how a woman could possibly have dreamed up this spartan American soldier in Iraq, who, while obsessively romancing death as a bomb-squad ace, outdoes the most extreme images of machismo ever produced by mainstream America. [. . .] Looks to me like she's masquerading as the baddest boy on the block to win the respect of an industry still so hobbled by gender-specific tunnel vision that it has trouble admiring anything but filmmaking soaked in a reduced notion of masculinity. (Martha Nochimson, “Kathryn Bigelow: Feminist pioneer or tough guy in drag?” 24 Feb. 2010)

First off, if you were my wife, I'd be happy to go back to bombs too.

Secondly, I didn't much like the teflon-soldier, either. Had me thinking at times of the worst part of “Gladiator,” when Maximus steps back from the scribe who wets himself. I understand the current appeal of narrowing your focus, though. Just get into a groove, do something over and over and over again, and maybe when you pull away, things will have changed. If not, back into the groove again. That is, there is a sense that Norah Ephron's latest is actually kinda like "Hurt Locker." A whole book of recipes, that drives her (the blogger) away from being a nothing. At the end, with whatever numerous potential recipe-bombs defused, with her now set to master whatever daily recipe before her, one suspects she'll be apt to go at it again, after her brief pause of no clear mission. No?

- - - - -

I'd like to once again chime in to make clear that it is unlikely to me that Bigelow is masquerading as a hyper-macho bad boy to gain someone else's approval, but that she is instead attracted to characters who can "keep their head" in stressful situations because she knows and is inspired by this character trait. And though I have voiced some criticism here of the teflon-soldier, you do see someone worth trying to emulate -- whatever your sex -- when Will throws off the headset, focuses on his task, and manages a successful defusing of the car-bomb. He keeps calm and inquisitive, in stressful situations, and will balk authority in order to do so -- and that's a trait the Clint Eastwoods AND the Norah Ephron's surely possess. His comrades are made to seem hyper hyper-alert, not just less narrowly-focused. And his patience is perhaps more calming than it is upsetting. He needs to be a better listener? Probably. But I think the movie suggests his ability to do what he has to to feel calm and in control, to be true to his own needs, actually is what affords him the ability to be generously receptive to the world around him -- he doesn't look at the porn-selling kid as just another potential hazard, something his companions would have a tougher time managing. He is more playful and human -- on the battlefield. Again, maybe a lot of directors are the same way, away from home (life).

Nochimson's point that Hollywood -- in motioning Bigelow to be the director of the year -- is up to something ultimately women-disparaging, requires a better engagement than we have thus far offered, because we all know, for instance, that something quite not so feminist was at work in promoting someone like Margaret Thatcher into office in Britain. If Britains bragged about having a female prime minister, about how it made them more evolved than Americans, I think many would think of how she was going to go at and eviscerate many of the social programs put in place to help women, try and argue that she is in fact best proof of the HOSTILITY of most Britains towards feminism, and have many Thatcher supporters successfully shut them down as having a narrow, circumscribed estimation of women's interests -- as being sexist themselves, that is. And yet "we" would still truly know that something other than what we mean by feminism was forwarded when the Iron Lady gained her "crown." Same thing here? I'm not sure. A better test would have been afforded if Ephron's latest had been all about Julia and her life -- the half of the movie that Nochimson evidently believes most worthy. If the movie had been that, and Ephron wasn't nominated, I'd be more pissed at the war-chick getting the accolades over the warmer display of joie de vivre. I'm not sure I'd be thinking sexism, though -- but surely that a culture has in mind to shape "their" psyches into bullet form (what happened to art deco in 30s and 40s).

Link: Kathryn Bigelow: Feminist pioneer or tough guy in drag?

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