There has been a lot of geeky rage on the internet lately at an incursion of female characters into our beloved fantasy land of cinema. Whether it was all the pissing and moaning about the upcoming Ghostbusters, or the utterly fantastic Furiosa, and now, with the rumour that there may be a remake of the Mummy where we imagine the Mummy as a female monster(heavens to Betsy), the evolution of stories moving to include women really unsettles people. this is my response to a comment I received in a thread on a movie site, after i had already said that if for no other reason, I want my daughter to have heroes in the magic shadows. Writing it, I kind of hoped that it might soothe the anger and actually be heard by the person who was reacting to my earlier comments. I hoped it might make sense to anyone else that read it. And as a man who often finds himself angry about issues of gender, I really wanted it to resonate within me and remind me that a lot of things that seem at odds don't have to be.
It is easy to dismiss the movies as not a big important thing, compared to other issues, but they are. We spend a lot of time watching them and absorbing their metaphors and analogues of our lives. The ideas and feelings we are presented with reverberate within us and spread to what we believe and how we live and interact. They don't just change us, they form us, they form our vision of ourselves, and they are a legacy we leave behind. (Ask Leni Riefenstahl--see we have female monsters, so surely need them in our frightful stories)
This, then was my reply to some friction I received on a website at the idea of a female Mummy (I can't believe I just typed that):
"No, I am a man, and a father. I don't see these things as shoehorning, or as an attack (what is being attacked?) Should we have "equality in the workplace and school and jobs and stuff" but with maybe the most meaningful thing we do that makes us human--tell stories--just tell stories about men? What will that teach my daughter? Growing up, I could want to be the Mummy for Halloween; as an adolescent I could dream of escape with Mad Max. Now she can too.
Women are 53% of the population. And they dream just like we do. They also have sucky lives just like we do. Why shouldn't they get to go to the theatre and for a couple of hours get to be heroes, cads, rogues, monsters and villains?
I am not a fan of much of the politics or media message of feminism. I'm not. I couldn't count the number of arguments i get shut down in with the accusation of my being misogynist, because my opinion differs from what is commonly accepted. But this one seems like a no brainer.
I am a misfit geek, and I was very lonely when I was young. Hell, I am lonely now and rely on movies as a soothing force in my life. Movies were and still are a great balm in my life. My daughter sometimes seems the same way. I want that when she is going to the theatre, or staying up all night with her friends and videos, that she has her own ET, Highlander, Raiders, Escape From New York, The Thing, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Goonies, The Last Starfighter, etc. etc. But most of my so treasured youthful cinema memories have no girls for her to root for or empathize with. For that matter they didn't have any for me to empathize with either.
Lots of characters and stories become iconic or mythic, we retell them, and we make new movies about them. It seems the most natural thing in the world that we might retell them with women as characters. That we might include them in our human narratives. Indeed, it sounds ridiculous to need to say it. Why wouldn't we want women heroes and villains. As men, why wouldn't we be curious how these stories play out from this different perspective? I don't lose Mad Max because we now have Furiosa. My stories are richer now. I won't lose my childhood Ghostbusters because we will soon have gang of female Ghostbusters. A lifetime of images of the Mummy, from the original Universal Studios film to Scooby-Doo, aren't harmed by telling a story of a female mummy. To think otherwise is ridiculous, even if one wasn't interested in engaging that story.
What would I be telling my daughter, or my sister or my female friends, if I said all this rich territory of narrative is not open to them. It becomes a heinous ugly version of Alfalfa and his no girls allowed club.
I like to think that outside of the media frenzy for gender wars that we all get along and that we need and love each other. But what must my daughter think when she is on the internet and she sees the rage caused by simply placing women in stories, by comments like yours? I can't even guess what she must feel like to be so reviled and feared and to have people demanding that she not get to be in our human stories. in our legends. in the story version of our existence.
We tell new stories, we tell stories that resemble old stories, and just like with mythology, we retell our favorite stories with new angles. One of those angles is creating female heroes and villains and monsters. It is very difficult to see a reason why that isn't a wondrous thing.
I'm not saying you don't have things to be angry about. I have things i am angry about too. This isn't one of them. This is an opportunity. This is growth. This is evolution happening. This is exciting. This is embracing. This is one of the places where we get to put down any gender war we feel we are in and revel together in the magic we all feel about the movies."