Thursday, August 19, 2010

Addendum to The Deep Freeze: Imaginary Women

Several different blogs have picked up my post about Christopher Nolan's woman problems. Which is exciting! And a little bizarre! At least, the post on OhNoTheyDidnt felt a little bizarre. o_O

Response has been all over the map, but a couple of readers took issue with my reading of some female characters. Specifically, they contend that Mrs. Jankis from Memento and Mal from Inception should not be counted as female characters because, as NerdGirl puts it:
But the film's established that memories are unreliable in dreams, so the remembered Moll (sic) isn't her either. She's a shattered reflection of the women Cobb loved. All that remains are the fond memories to torture him and the projection of his guilt who wants him to suffer – because he feels he deserves it. Which, come on – he does.

To which I respond, fair enough. Both of these female characters were (for the most part) memories and mental constructions in the minds of male characters. Perhaps that deserves a category separate from the Madonnas, Whores*, Antagonists, and Dead Wives that populate Christopher Nolan's films: Imaginary Women.

Unfortunately, I can't understand why the readers feel these could be used as a defense of Nolan. Far from it: these constructed women have absolutely no autonomy or agency. They literally do not exist outside of the minds of men. They aren't even real women! Natalie, the femme fatale from Memento, is IMO a stronger female character than Mal or Mrs. Jankis: she's manipulative and hard-edged, yes, but she is clearly a resourceful, intelligent survivor. And she's a real woman. So that puts her one-up on the other two.

And while we're on the subject of Inception...whoo boy. And people say I'm critical.

(*NerdGirl also took issue with me dismissing a female character in Insomnia as "a whore." I didn't. I said that she represented the "Whore" side of the classic Madonna-Whore complex that permeates so many of our media products, as based on the fact that the character spends about half her screentime coming onto one man or another and is given very little else to do. I just want to be clear on that point; I would never bandy about such a female-negative term in a non-academic sense.)

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your response, but my real issue is that you took the characters out of the context of the other characters, as I wrote, "Yep lots of these ladies suffer and die – but you know what? Most of the male characters do too. Nolan makes dark dramas where nearly everyone pays a high price – often death. And to take the women out of the context of these films is to skew the perspective."

    I do think Nolan underwrites female characters - but it's more an issue of genre than this particular filmmaker. Crime movies tend to focus on male characters. Noir set up a strong outline many still follow - tortured male, ladies are either to be saved or to be killed.

    It's certainly worth critiquing, but I think your method is flawed when you ignore the male characters and the genre.