This film got a lot of love. Academy Awards, British Film Awards, American Film Awards, Golden Globes, more. In this rant (I ran out of time to write this as a proper essay) I’m going to tell you why they’re wrong, and specifically why the femininity in this film is so fucking patronising to watch.
It’s the apocalypse. Right? I mean, funnily enough, this film was actually set in the near future but fortunately for us our boring dystopia has more consisted of sitting around at home watching far too much TV and steadily going crazy as opposed to being chased by unstoppable creatures through the streets.
This film consists of following a nuclear family throughout a post-apocalypse world in which they must remain silent in order to escape creatures with ultra-sensitive hearing. The family have been able to get as far as they have due to the fact that their daughter is deaf, meaning that they are able to use sign language to communicate. It’s a cool idea, but falls frequently into ultra-conservative ideals and other bullshitery for me to be on board.
I do think the reason apocalypse films work so well in horror is because they allow us to illustrate what exactly it is that we as a species and a society put our main values on. In this film, motherhood is presented as the most important thing. It’s a pretty family-centric film anyway, but the way in which Emily Blunts’ character is presented suggests that it is the only true characteristic she has.
I mean, aside from the terrible pacing and the questionable portrayal of disability in this film, the climax of the movie hinges around this woman giving birth in the quickest, quietest way possible. It’s crazy, it’s literally over in about five minutes. I’m not saying this film can’t take poetic liberties with this, but seriously if they’re going to put such a weight on motherhood in general, then making the birth scene so unrealistic was a very strange choice.
Obviously, every woman has her own choice about who or what she wants to be in life. I just feel like we should be past the point in Hollywood where the familial values are set up as such so that the husband goes out to find the food and the woman stays at home literally just having babies – and having them in a way which completely negates the difficulties of giving birth and the immense strength it takes to do it a) without drugs and b) completely silently?!
Risking everything, including her own life and the safety and lives of the rest of her family in order to give birth to a child (in the middle of the fucking apocalypse) gives over a weirdly pro-life message. In fact, this is something that Robert Barron (a Roman Catholic Bishop) praised about the film, commending their self-giving love and the sacrificial nature of the parents in order to save their children. Yeesh.
Overall, this film is patronising, misogynistic, ableist (a film which is literally about a deaf girl includes spoken passages without any sign-along, and also there is a score used throughout? Madness) and just plain bad regardless of any of those issues.
xoxo, The Bechdel Bitch
Bit of a shorter post this time round. I’m currently in the midst of daily existential crises attempting to organise my end of year album list. It’ll be that and one more band interview before the end of the year and then 2021 will be focused on more long-form think pieces and reviews and LOADS more new music from awesome womxn. See you soon!