December 29, 2008

Masculinity and The Spirit: at theaters now

Filed under: Gender,Media,Sexuality — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 1:58 pm

Here’s a great take on the latest comic book film, The Spirit, from Bitch Magazine:

The Spirit is Frank Miller’s tribute to Will Eisner’s classic comic book series from the 1940s, and it features quite a line-up of female characters: Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega) and Lorelei Rox (Jaime King).  But don’t get too excited about this – after all, what we’ve really got here is a sexy jewel thief, a sexy surgeon-next-door, a sexy secretary (Silken Floss was actually demoted from scientist to secretary in the film adaptation), a sexy exotic dancer, and a sexy siren (yes, a siren!).  Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned that there’s also a sexy female cop in the film, too.  Kudos to the actresses who play these roles, as they really do make something out of their characters (Scarlett Johansson actively lobbied Miller for more to do in the film).  And it’s worth noting that these women are not helpless: Paulson commented in a recent interview, “The thing I liked about the part was just that there’s not a single woman in this movie who’s a damsel in distress. There’s not a single woman in this movie who isn’t a strong woman.” The Spirit and Sin City pretty clearly show us that Frank Miller knows how to write tough women.  The central problem with The Spirit isn’t so much the female characters or the cleavage shots, but the fact that they’re entirely deployed in the service of a dumb, juvenile fantasy of malehood.

Here’s Miller on the film: “I wanted to recapture some of the glory of manlihood that I feel the
world has lost. I wanted to bring it back through the Spirit.” Comic book adaptations took some leaps and bounds this year with their more thoughtful representations of masculinity and it’s a bummer to see Frank Miller close out the year by wasting so many talented actresses on a completely adolescent fantasy.  And it’s not great news for men, either.  Miller basically flushes The Spirit and his nemesis the Octopus, played by Samuel L. Jackson, down the toilet – yes, they even get a fight scene in sewage.  Crazy, sexy babes and toilet humor: is this a comic book masterpiece?

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