Some Thoughts on Fake Feminism

So, I sat down and watched the summer special-effects movie, The Day After Tomorrow. What can I say, I have a thing for Jake Gyllenhaal of Donnie Darko fame.

Being me, there’s a little part of my brain attuned to the gender dynamics of the movies I’m watching. I watch them for their own sake, sure, and if they’re popcorn thrillers, I let a lot slide, but I tuck the information away for later speculation.

In the case of tDAT, you’ve got a Scifi channel Battlestar Gallactica attempt at feminism, which is basically this: We’ve Got Female Characters in This Movie! One of them’s a doctor! One’s a Smart Asian who Works for NASA! And There’s a Smart Girl member of the decathalon team! See how great and hardworking we are, how much we’ve done toward including women in our show? See! See!

And on the surface you go, oh, look, female characters.

Then you’re reminded of why the female characters are there.

The female doctor stays behind to comfort a dying child. She’s later “rescued” by helpful men in snow plows, showing that if you just keep up your faith in men and do your duty protecting a dying child, you, too, will be rescued by men.

The Smart Asian woman is almost a gender-neutral role, except that one of the science team members makes eyes at her, so we know that he’s got “something to fight for.” She has about three lines, and when The Boys go out to save some kids stranded in NY, she, of course, stays behind.

And the decathalon girl… dear god in heaven. She’s a sweetheart actress and all, but she has about eight lines, and very little personality. She seems to exist merely for plot reasons: so that Jake Gyllenhaal will join the decathalon team in order to get close to her, and then brave an ice storm and some totally unneccessary and really silly looking computer generated wolves in order to get some antibiotics for her to “save” her from septic shock. Which, of course, he does (to be fair, she does get kudos for being able to speak French, and staying behind to help… um, a woman and some children from drowning in a car).

Here’s what I want:

The female doctor stays behind to help a hot 30-year-old-guy dying from cancer, not a kid, and when told an ambulance isn’t coming, she bundles up and goes out into the cold, finds an ambulance, hotwires it, expertly drives it around snowy obstacles, loads the guy in the back, and drives to safety. She is welcomed as a hero at the base camp, and quickly takes over the medical ward from an incompetent male doctor.

The Smart Asian actually has a personality. And instead of making eyes back at the scientist guy, she turns out to have just lost her female lover in the storm in New York, she, too, has Something To Fight For. When the guys try and leave without her, she says, “No, my lover would have wanted me to go. Besides, I’ve got better endurance than the rest of you, and I biked around New York for six years. I know the place better than any of you.” She’ll then go, and instead of one of the guys dying, she’ll figure out a Smart Asian way of saving him. Also, her lover will end up being alive, and they’ll have a really emotional reunion.

And Miss Female Decathalon with also actually have a personality that exists outside of Jake’s conception of who he wants her to be. She’ll tell Jake he’s damn hot, and there won’t be any of this back-and-forth with the dumb-ass loser rich kid, cause she’s smart and sexy and knows what she wants, and she wants Jake. She’ll save him from a bus accident or something, to prove it. Upon saving the French-speaking woman, she’ll take charge of her own health, and point out her wound to everyone so they’ll know right away that she’s in bad shape. She’ll be the one to come up with the idea that there’s medicine on the ship, which she and Jake will then go and get. There can be some steamy sex action after she’s been treated for septic shock. Or whatever. Then, when he’s attacked by wolves for trying to save her from them, she can toss him over her shoulders and haul him back into the library.

That would a sweet-ass movie.

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