Sunday, March 26, 2006

Exchange on Hero Type Movies 

From some comments at ACE, that started with "V for Vendetta" and then got into a discussion of Hero type movies and characters.

ACE on "V":
This is part of the two problems with the Black-Costumed Man Of Mystery movie. Batman and the Crow also suffered from this problem-- in order to make the hero seem bad-ass and mysterious, the director always seems to revert to turning the hero into a simply unstoppable, undauntable force of nature who is never in any real danger. He simply never comes across a credible threat, an equal to challenge him, or anything, really, that scares him or makes him doubt his own chances of success. He just shows up, kicks ass quickly and efficiently, and actually is so in command of the situation he can take the additional time and effort to pose, preen, soliquilize, and generally just toy with his adversaries.

The problem? It's boring. If the hero is never really in a situation he can't easily handle, where is the excitement or drama? In The Crow, the black-wearing white-Kabuki-make-uped hero (seems a swipe from V, actually) just walked up to a bunch of guys he wanted to kill and... killed them. Only in the first and last executions was there even a fight, and those fights were never versus opponents who posed any sort of credible threat. V is absolutely similar in this regard -- his first appearance features a fight which he wins without even trying, then he just kills three or four people without having to even fight past security -- and his victims are all aged and out of shape and quite plainly not up to taking him on; one is 60 year old woman, for God's sakes -- and his last execution does feature a fight, but, just as in the Crow, you can pound him with automatic gunfire, but he's not going down until he murders someone.

The hero just never shows any fear, so the audience just never feels any fear on his behalf. Contrast this with Indiana Jones, who frequently makes that "Oh dear God" face to let you know "You know, I think I might just actually die" here. For the audience to feel fear on behalf of the hero, he has to feel it himself. And films suffering from the Black-Costumed Man of Mystery syndrome just never seem to realize that.

I thought this was an interesting reaction, but I disagree. Men love this type of all-in-control (specially emotionally), fearless type "hero." That's the exact psychological push-button that the 007 films go for. And men just adore it, they love killing everyone single-handedly, always out-smarting everyone, getting all the sexy women to swoon 24/7 for them and just want nothing else but to jump into the sack with them.

It doesn't bother men that everything in the above is just male-ego pumping to the max, in such levels of absurdity and lack of reality and logic, that it's laughable.

I won't go see V - at least in the theaters - seen the preview, and although it's supposed to be a more "serious" type film than 007, the manichean structure seems exactly the same.

I haven't seen all the Bond movies, I don't think, but from what I remember about them, the only major thing that changed through time was some key traits and behaviors of the main female character.

Seem to remember that in older 007 flicks, the woman was very bimbo-like, sexy, but if she was evil, 007 didn't fall for it (she could be stupid, but not him). But that was when she didn't completely change sides because of how enthralled she became about him. Overall, really a "doll" type person, always succumbing one way or another to the male hero. can't really remember though. In more recent movies, it seems she has acquired more brains and is more of a "partner" type woman, adatping to recent changes about women's roles in society.

Canelone: "The thing is, this isn't ego-pumping. It would be if the man was doing these things, but watching some other dude do it doesn't do a damn thing for a man's ego. What we like to see is someone kicking ass and succeeding in a way we can't. Our lives are tough and crappy enough without watching some loser as bad or worse than us stumble around haplessly.

There's nothing attractive about someone barely able to defeat their enemies, in constant concern for their life or even success. That's not heroic, that's like real life and I don't pay 8+ dollars to watch real life."

That happens to me too. I haven't asked other women about how they feel regarding watching a woman character that "kicks a**," but I certainly like it.

You see, there is something more there too that you guys never experienced. A couple of decades ago, if you examined the roles of women in film and tv, you had no "kick a**" heroines. (I know, I know, I bet you can name exceptions). But the sheer bulk of roles had really lame attitudes and behaviors for women. There's the fall apart in a crisis type, who breaks down crying until the brave guy comes and does something. there's the incompetent or not that smart part, that can't figure out a solution and has to rely on other people, there's the "I just go shopping and flirting and serve as sex symbol" type, but who didn't do much either. Can you imagine watching films and tv and seeing one load of stupid messages about women after another? this is what was like watching most of tv in the past.

Specially if you stop to analyze the roles women played in guy hero movies, I mean, they were ridiculuous.

A lot has changed. For example, take Alias. I really liked Alias for lots of reasons (only watched the first two years). JG played a kind of female 007 heroine, very dangerous missions, she's usually alone or almost alone to get things done, she has all the computer little gadgets, AND she goes unarmed to fight against these armed to the nth power goon headquarters, to exactly do what? KICK a lot of body parts of the bad guys. And the plots are totally double-O-seveny, they are full of illogical non-sense, but it's fun and it's cool and it's exciting because of all the suspense build-up. And it's really cool that she exactly does things competently, out-smartingly, strongly, and yet doesn't lose her femininity (one could say, is quite used a sex symbol, but not bimbo-like).

But that's not all, one thing that I find irritating with Alias is that it oscillates between the fantastic and mission impossible 007 genre to a much more dark and serious genre. Can't we choose one and stick to it? Because the more serious part of Alias is really cool too, specially character development, and troubled relationships, conflicts, etc. It has content in that respect too, but that just conflicts totally with the fun, superficial 007 wins everything in the end always, and still has an unruffled tuxedo and perfectly combed hair in the end.

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