January 18, 2011

Mattie Ross: True Brat?

Filed under: Film,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , — Rachel @ 7:53 pm

The following post contains spoilers for the film “True Grit”


This morning Rachel Simmons tweeted a link to a story on her blog – a high school girl’s take on the adolescent female characters in the recent films, Somewhere and True Grit.   I was pleasently surprised when seeing True Grit, that the star of the film is a smart, brave, headstrong, gutsy, no-nonse 14-year old heroine named Mattie.  Unfrotunately the high school blogger who penned ““True Grit” and “Somewhere” Star Girls but Fail Girlhood” didn’t see her in the same positive light.

In fact, Fiona Lowenstein describes Mattie as: one-dimensional, “caricature”, “annoying, impossible to relate to, and not at all believable”, “dislikable”, “a joke”, ” self-satisfied” “irritating”, “rude”, “arrogant”, “braided blowhard”, “grating”, “smug”, and “pushy”.

Even if Mattie does come across this way – let’s look at a few reasons why she might be such a “grating, pushy, blowhard.”  First, when the movie opens, her father has just been murdered by a handyman he had hired to help him.  Then she’s not taken seriously by the horse salesman who tries to screw her out of money that is rightfully hers because he sees her as some silly illiterate 14-year old girl.  She tries to hire Rooster Cogburn, but he also sees her as an idiotic adolescent.  The Texas Ranger La Boeuf informs her the only reason he’s not sexually assaulting her is because she’s so ugly.  Shortly thereafter Cogburn lies and leaves without her.  The La Bouef lies and says he’s taking Tom Chaney when they find him so he can get payout on a contract. Now what could possibly compel Mattie’s character to have a defensive, head-strong attitude?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she’s mistreated every step of the way.  Oh, and it’s not the guys who end up taking down Chaney and saving the day.  When Mattie confronts him, she shoots Chaney twice, on two separate occasions.

Additionally, Fiona places the entire blame for her view of the above characteristics of Mattie on the Coen Brothers.  Apparently before going on a completely uninformed rant, she couldn’t be bothered to google to find out any history whatsoever about the film.  Like, that it was originally a book published in 1968 by Charles Portis, or that it was made as a film in 1969, starring John Wayne.  To say that the Coen Brothers may have written Mattie (which they didn’t – Charles Portis did) as “a joke” is to have zero familiarity of the history of their work.  In fact, the Coen Brothers stuck more closely to the source material than the original film adaptation.  (In the John Wayne version, the men do ultimately kill Chaney and save the day.)

The unfortunate thing about Fiona’s post is that it has the potential to turn young women away from the movie, and the Coen Brothers other films, when her piece was neither constructive or researched in any way.  Furthermore, is this the type of post that belongs on the website of an author who uncovered girl-on-girl crime in adolescence?  Is calling a female character a blow-hard helping anyone?  I certainly don’t think so.  An uninformed voice is a potentially harmful one.