Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kiss the Patriarchy (or not)

Watching "The Fifth Element" for the first time in a while with friends last night, I rediscovered how much I love this particular scene:



Notice how the sleeping beauty structure* is being used as the undertext, here.

Also, notice how this scene subverts (and criticizes in many ways) the older Hollywood idea that the charming male lead kisses the female lead and not only brings her "back to life" but that she welcomes the kiss. Here, Leeloo does something very important: with a gun in her hand (patriarchal power reified) she reminds the male lead (here, Bruce Willis who, no matter how hot he is, needs to be reminded that) her body is not his to do with as he pleases.

This ties in with what I really like about the film (though Melissa isn't wrong to point out that the film gets quite heavy handed with its morality statement at the end): here we have a female action-oriented character who does not cut off emotions or ties to community in order to achieve her goals. In other words, she is not a male character in drag, as so many other female characters in action films tend to be (and Milla Jovovich herself plays one in the Resident Evil films). Leeloo is the supreme being because she is able to be effective in combat and yet still retains her horizontal (rather than heirarchical) relations to those around her. I'm not saying the film doesn't have its problems (what film is perfect?), but I do say that for this reason it gets a pass on many of those from me. It's possible to count the number of female action heroes who don't fall into the masculinist trap on one hand, I believe. Even if the soundtrack wasn't really good, and Tricky weren't in it, I'd still give the film two thumbs up for that reason alone.

*Gen was right to point out that many people use the term "mythology" incorrectly, and I hadn't done exactly what she meant here, but I did see that I was using the term "mythos" for the wrong reason, so I edited to be more precise about what I meant (7/8/08)

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