In Search of Medusa’s Story

18 Nov

Most people don’t remember much about 2010’s remake of Clash of the Titans except that they didn’t like it, but I remember coming out of the theater with a revelation of sorts. Sure, the movie was boring. Claudia Puig of USA Today called it a “big yawn” whose “most astounding achievement is the ability to be both chaotic and dull.” But my feelings were stronger than the usual disappointment with Hollywood directors who keep assuming that wild special effects can overcome poor screenwriting.

Please direct your attention to the giant monster who ate our plotline.

As Perseus and friends set out on their mission to kill Medusa, I started having this odd feeling of frustration. There Medusa was, minding her own business in her creepy cave-house, and these guys bust in to decapitate her, for no reason other than the fact they want to “borrow” her head to go kill the Kraken. I realize that part of the fault lies with the Greek mythologists themselves, but you’d think that in this day and age, our modern storytellers would be asking some more original questions, like the one I kept asking myself there in the theater: What was Medusa’s side of this story? I imagine her narrative of that scene would read like some kind of home-invasion robbery in which Perseus begins to look less like a hero and more like a murdering psychopath prancing about with a lady’s head in a bag.

I had long before realized that most of the sci-fi / fantasy or actions movies I saw, a.) were centered around some guy whom I was supposed to consider heroic no matter what sinister deeds he performed, and b.) included female characters only so they could be saved by said guy in order to demonstrate his general awesomacity. But a film like Clash of the Titan takes this even further: the women characters are there not only to help the guy or be saved by him (like Io or Princess Andromeda), but to be killed by him as well.  They have no real purpose outside of pointing a finger at how rad he is.

It seems obvious that this is the kind of set-up that a lot of male moviegoers want to see, or at least that’s what Hollywood studio executives tell us. But it’s not the kind of movie I want to see. So there in the Regal Cinemas lobby, after I spent some time mourning the loss of yet another $12, I resolved to begin seeking out films that represent women as real people with real goals of their own.  Movies that don’t make me roll my eyes so much.  Movies that don’t make me worry that it’s still 1950 and my real life outside the dark void of the movie theater is just a hallucinatory fantasy in which I indulge just to keep myself from gnawing at the hospital restraints.

Kind of like this girl.

In this blog I want to think about movies that have strong female characters, or movies that at least seem likely to pass the Bechdel Test. I want to think about what kinds of women are represented onscreen, and by what kinds of films and what kinds of directors and writers. It’s really a quest to seek out the kinds of movies I want to watch instead of just trudging like cattle to the trough of movies that are marketed to me, and to find movies that appeal to my own desires, rather than the desires studio executives think I should have.

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