Suckerpunch: Objectification Masquerading as “Empowerment.”

When I first saw a trailer for this movie, it was many months away from release, so there wasn’t very much information out there about it’s content other than a simple teaser trailer. I hadn’t really formed much of an opinion on it yet. However, the closer it’s release date came, the more I learned about it, and the more I started to form a solid opinion of the film. And it’s not a good one. I chose not to see it when it was finally released, much to the criticism of others, who seem to think that I cannot possibly have formed an opinion without wasting my money on this drek. Not so. If it weren’t possible to have your own personal opinion of a movie without seeing it, no one would ever be able to decide if they wanted to see it at all in the first place. My good friend, Charlie, pointed out that if my information on the film’s content comes from an accurate, unbiased source, and the source correctly describes the film’s content, then there’s no reason for me to see it. I did get my info from accurate sources, as well as from reviews from professional critics. Here is what I have to say.

1) Empowerment through…seduction?

The characters in this film are all (very young I might add) women who are trying to escape the confines of a horrible mental institution run by tyrannical men. They use their vivid imaginations to escape the terrible harshness of what’s around them while they try to actually escape in the real world. How do they get to this amazing fantasy world where they kick ass and destroy giant robots? By imagining it while they are doing sexual dances to distract the leering male guards.

Yup. All that ass-kicking and robot-fighting isn’t even real. It’s all in their heads. Where they hold any REAL power is in their ability to effectively seduce the guards long enough to distract them from their duties. This is a classic example of the typical media idea that women only have any real power in their sexuality. But not in a good way. Empowering of women’s sexuality should not be based in how good at pleasing men they are. Any measure of strength, endurance, or straight up ability to fight is just “all in our heads.” Also, the girls are lead by a mysterious guardian spirit that tells them how they can get to freedom…and it’s a man. We only have power through our sexiness, and we need men to save us, so says the almighty Suckerpunch. *SPOILER* It should also be mentioned, that only ONE of these girls actually escapes, and when she does, she has to be rescued by a man on the street. She can’t save herself in the real world. The man who saves her? The “mysterious” guardian from their minds.

2) Stripper names.

Come on. …COME ON. Do I really need to go into detail with this one? “Baby Doll,” “Sweet Pea,” “Rocket,” “Amber.” Now, Amber is actually a pretty normal name. But having one normal name doesn’t negate that the rest sound like strippers. In fact, “Rocket” was the name of a stripper character in Kill Bill vol. 2.

“Hey, before you leave, go see ROCKET, she has a job for you.”~Bud’s Boss at the stripper bar.<< Here she is.

Personally, I hate being called “babe,” “baby,” or “baby doll.” It feels condescending and patronizing. I’m a grown woman, not an infant or a toy made to look like an infant.

3) Impractical outfits.

Well, they’re only impractical if they were actually being used for the robot-smashing depicted in the ads. But for seducing guards with sexy dancing? You bet. A teeny sailor suit is the staple of the main character, Baby Doll’s, clothing. Cropped v-neck top and pleated miniskirt. Pigtails add to the “sweet young girl” image, but she still sports heavy makeup that makes her still “fuckable” (can’t look TOO young now, can we?) And she’s never without that pouty, come-hither look on her lips.

Now, where have I seen little sailor suits like that before? Oh, yeah, Leg Avenue.

All this is wrapped up with the idea that, simply because it’s about women escaping a prison, it’s somehow empowering. It’s the same, tired, overused image of the scantily-clad woman with the faux “empowerment through sex” message bubbling right under (and sometimes over) the surface. “Oh, but the soundtrack is awesome!” Maybe so, but that doesn’t change anything I just mentioned. Good music doesn’t cancel out bad sexism.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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