Monday, April 1, 2013

G.I.Joe and the Case of Realistic Misogyny

I went to see G.I.Joe: Retaliation, and it was a pretty fun watch! It was basically like watching a two-hour-long commercial. Things happen because WE SAY SO and now the characters are over here because of REASONS and they know things because BOOM! EXPLOSIONS! EXPLOSIONS EVERYWHERE!

So yeah, if you were willing to accept that this movie was, in fact, the equivalent of taking little army dolls and moving them from room to room in a house and making them spout catchphrases at each other, it was good times.

One thing in particular that I noticed about this movie was its portrayal of women. There are two women in the movie, and they speak to each other, not about a man. Bechdel, check! And while there were hints of a romantic subplot, it was only a hint and only in one scene, and actually only used to further the characterization of the main female character Jaye.

I really liked Jaye. She made smart choices, didn't once get kidnapped or rescued, and didn't take any crap.

Roll call! From left to right - Jaye, Joe, and that guy
played by The Rock.
Which is where we come to the point of this blog post.

G.I.Joe: Retaliation has one of the most realistic portrayals of misogyny that I've seen in a movie, ever. It's subtle and pervasive, and that's what makes it so true to life.

Bruce Willis plays Joe, the former head of the G.I.Joes. When he first meets Jaye, he calls her Brenda, and then insists on calling her Brenda throughout the rest of the movie. Does he do anything similar to her two male companions? No, of course not. And when he needs someone to get him something, he asks her. Here's the dialogue exchange that really hit home for me:

Joe: Pass me that pen, would you Brenda?
Jaye: First a Girl Scout, and now I'm a secretary. My name's Jaye.
Joe: It's just a pen.

This is what misogyny looks like, people. It's almost never the blatant "When I want to create a female character, I think of a man and I take away the reason and the accountability," of Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. Usually it's small, subtle jibes that pile up over time, and women are laughed at and called oversensitive when they try to point them out - just like what happens to Jaye.

What I liked about this movie was that Jaye never just accepted it. She let it go - as women are often forced to do in the face of larger issues, like nuclear missiles with less security than a 711 lockbox - but she keeps pushing back and forcing Joe to acknowledge her as an equal. From later in the movie, after a fight...

Joe: You alright?
Jaye: Yeah. Are you alright?
Joe: ...Fine. Cholesterol's a little high.
Jaye: *extravagant eye roll*

And to give this movie its due, I do think that we're meant to find Joe's persistent sexism grating. By the end of the movie he swallows his pride and calls Jaye by her name in a scene that, while a little overdone, has its heart in the right place.

She actually has LESS cleavage in the movie
than in a kiddie cartoon.
That's all I ask for. So thanks, G.I.Joe. You served admirably. HOOAH!

5 comments:

  1. 1. Will never watch this movie. Fall asleep on movie excursions more than half an hour long.
    2. You call it misogyny but its just the biz.
    3. Mindless will do and slapping grab-assing troops into some version of cognition while ramping up to operational readiness is normal.
    4. The hardasses I knew and loved didn't have clever script writers. They were just hard.
    5. Real Joe's reply to Jaye would have been, "Yup."
    V/R JW

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    1. While I take your point about real people getting things done and doing what they have to, two things:

      1. This is media, not real life. There's no reason for Joe's dialogue to be any more realistic than the nuclear missile protocols or ninja zip-liners also featured in the movie. The media chooses what it wants to portray as normal.
      2. It took a long time of pushing for women to be allowed in the military at all. If we keep pushing at things that are "just the biz", eventually we'll have true equality. If everybody accepts the status quo, nothing changes.

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  2. 1. Am suitably chastised.
    2. The folks we are talking about aren't much into feelings.
    3. Explore for that sensitive inner nature, imagination or high levels of cognitive ability and you will be disappointed.
    4. If he's saying 'that's the biz' after loading stretcher cases on a medevac bird, he's not going to be too concerned about anybody's feelings.
    5. If the woman is a smart troop, she'll recognize the above and pitch in and do the job. By the time she's operational, she will have met plenty of such, know their limits and hers.
    6. Raising the roof about HR issues works in garrison. It does not work in the boonies.
    7. The only things that count in the boonies are getting the job done and coming out of the weeds alive.
    8. Occasionally, Hollywood gets that.
    9. If I were going to communicate my needs with such a dinosaur, would recommend an E-tool and issuance of credible threats of flattening his skull with the thing.
    10. No women around in my day. Just whiny minorities. In the boonies, they were told to shut up until we got back where they could find somebody who gave a damn.
    V?R JW

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  3. You did a great job of explaining what life is like for a woman in many male-dominated arenas in this age. It isn't overt ass grabs, it's subtle hints that you-are-not-one-of-us (and-you-never-will-be-no-matter-what). I'm glad by the end of the movie she was the one acting like a real soldier instead of making dumbass remarks about cholesterol.

    -BB

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  4. Just sayin' in interviews the female actress states she wanted him to keep going with the brenda thing because it "rubbed" her the wrong way on and off screen.

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