Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Film Review: Gravity

Role of Women: Without wishing to give too much away about the film (and it's really hard to talk about it without spoiling it), I want to praise Gravity for giving a female a central, almost exclusive role in a film without resorting to cliches and tropes. In an earlier post I talked about how Hollywood tends to assume men won't watch films with a female central protagonist, but everyone I know who has seen this film has nothing bad to say about it-- certainly they don't mention how boring it was to watch a movie all about a woman! Dr. Ryan Stone is educated (in a STEM field), capable, and courageous, and yet also vulnerable, emotional, and caring-- palpably human with all the diversity that involves. It is rare for films to straddle that line in a female character; most tend to divide women into tough, "manly" types who are capable, independent, and unemotional, and gentle, "womanly" types who need rescuing and are nurturing. Bravo to this film for making their heroine a woman who, like most of humanity, has strengths and weaknesses, areas of capability and vulnerability, something to offer as well as some areas of neediness.

Sexualisation of Women: Clooney's character Matt Kowalski is more stereotyped than Dr. Stone, as a bit of a rogue or charmer, and he is guilty of the small instance of sexualisation in the film. In the throes of a life-threatening situation in space, he teasingly invites Dr. Stone to admit she's attracted to him. It's small and subtle, but it is an implied imposition of sexuality that by no means need be present.

Dr. Stone spends several scenes dressed only in the tank top and fitted shorts she wore under her spacesuit, but it didn't feel at all sexualised to me. The scenes draw heavily on a "rebirth" subtheme and she is never posed sexually while dressed like this; her body is acknowledged without being either vilified or objectified and I appreciated that.

Bechdel Test Pass/Fail: Fail. The other female in the film dies without any dialogue. There was a fine opportunity to include a conversation with a women when Dr. Stone makes radio contact with Earth, but the voice on the other end is the Hollywood default: a male. 

Male:Female Ratio: Of the seven characters in the film, two are female. One dies without any dialogue.

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