Why Wonder Woman Can’t Win Part 1

Jordan and Eddie’s film reviews is an excellent blog and I always appreciate reading their reflections on film.  They had criticized the portrayal of Steven Trevor within Wonder Woman.  I expected not to like this dynamic because I have never really liked Chris Pine.  (To be fair, I saw him for the first time in the dreadful Star Trek Into Darkness.)   While I was fine with Chris Pine and Steven Trevor didn’t bother me (which is not to say that it is perfect!) I started to think about the alternatives that Patti Jenkins and the writers could have pursued.  When I did that, I quickly realized that Wonder Woman can’t win.

Wonder Woman

Here we go:

1 One option would have been to make Steve Tyler’s character a woman.  This would have changed the story in many key ways.  For one thing, it would have given Diana a female friend, which is unheard of for women in action movies.  (What is the name of Sarah Connor’s female friend in Terminator II: Judgement Day? Or Ripely’s female friend in Alien?  Or Angelina Jolie’s female friend in Salt?  Or Rey’s female friend in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?)  This would have been revolutionary; probably too revolutionary for its own good.

OK.  Every once in a while I declare something My Most Controversial Statement Ever.  This is, without a doubt, the most controversial statement ever on this blog.

I enjoyed Ghostbusters (2016) in a mindless kind of way.  (But you’re not wrong if you think it’s the worst movie ever made.)

So, I bring up Ghostbusters 2016 because I enjoyed the dynamic between the main characters.  It is so rare to see the dynamic of friendship and cameraderie between women in films.  Usually, in these types of films, there is one woman surrounded by men.

(Where is Jyn’s female friend in this picture?)

Rogue One

(Where is Black Widow’s female friend in this picture?)

The_Avengers_Assembled

My favorite scene in Ghostbusters was actually at the end of the film.  The women are celebrating saving the city, and they stand on the roof looking out into the distance, enjoying their victory and each other’s company.  This is absent in most films.

However, I was recently struck by Chris Stuckmann’s recent review of Wonder Woman.  He makes an offhanded comment that Ghostbusters made him feel bad about being a man.  I guess it’s because the film does not really have one positive portrayal of a man.

Now, imagine if Steve Trevor’s character had been Stephanie Trevor and she sacrificed herself for the sake of others.  Now, imagine if Dr. Poison had been a man.  Imagine if Ares had pointed to a male Dr. Poison as the example of all humanity, evil through and through.  Diana weighs the options and decides that Stephanie Trevor and her sacrifice for the good of others.  In this scenario, males embody all that is wrong with humanity and women embody all that is right about humanity.  If Patti Jenkins had set up this dynamic, the opposite of what is in the film, most men would have felt that the film was misandronistic.  (Is that a word?  It is now. And it means anti-men.)

If Wonder Woman had made Steve Trevor’s character Stephanie Trevor, this would have been a revolutionary choice.  Unfortunately, it would have been too revolutionary and alienated too many men.

2 Another option would have been to have no Steven Tyler in the movie and have Diana leave Thymiscera and go to the front in a different way.  In this way, Diana would not have had any kind of companion, man or woman, as she navigates the world.

Of course, if this had been done, Diana could not have shown any difficulty adapting to a new world, or any confusion as to why humanity behaves the way they do.  This poses a number of problems.  One, this would have opened up Wonder Woman to the charge that she is a Mary Sue.  Many people criticize Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a Mary Sue, and with very good reason.  If Diana arrived in London and went to buy clothes with no difficulty, the audience would have scratched their heads.

Second of all, this would weaken Wonder Woman’s arc in the film.  Wonder Woman is a coming of age story and a story about a crisis of faith.  Diana has faith in the story that her mother tells her about where she comes from, men, the gods, and her place in the world.  Diana has a simple, childlike faith in the goodness of man and the wickedness of Ares.  Diana discovers that her mother’s story was not the full truth.  It is because she has seen the heroism of Steven Trevor and his companions that she is able to declare that humanity is more than the sum of their worst acts and commit herself to protect them.

Third, by putting Wonder Woman into the Virgin Warrior trope, the film would have played it very safe.  Wonder Woman would easily fit into the class of the Virgin Warrior, according to her name and origin.  Ironically, playing it safe would have opened it up the film to controversy.  (Superheros can save the day and have love lives; why can’t Super Heroines?)

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3 Another possibility would have been to keep Wonder Woman on the island the whole time and not have any men appear in the film at all.  That would have been the most daring choice the filmmakers could have made.  I wish they had made it.  Sadly, it would have been far too daring.  I have watched enough reviews of Wonder Woman on Youtube to have heard several men talk about the idea that many films that are perceived of as “feminist” are also perceived as be “anti-men.”  A large number of men have seen Wonder Woman and apparently enjoyed the film.  Would this have been the case if Wonder Woman did not have any men?  I am skeptical.

Is my point that Wonder Woman’s portrayal of Steven Trevor is the best choice?  No.  My point is that any choice that Wonder Woman would have been criticized no matter what choice she made.  This is because Wonder Woman, as the first super hero film to star a woman, has pressures that no super hero film has ever faced.

Let’s take the decision to show Wonder Woman murder Ares and other people.  Now, it is often controversial to show super heroes murdering people (case in point: Superman kills Zodd in Man of Steel.)  However, I doubt any of the controversies surrounding the murder of Zodd included discussions like this.

CarolChrist

Quote can be found here.

https://feminismandreligion.com/2017/06/25/saving-tomorrow-wonder-woman-and-her-elevated-role-in-shaping-our-world-by-anjeanette-leboeuf/

There are other quotes in this blog that discuss the ramifications of the violence in Wonder Woman.  This was common after Man of Steel.  However, there is an added dimension to the subject.  The writers are questioning whether Wonder Woman supplants the patriarchy or actually supports the patriarchy by promoting violence against the Other.  Is Wonder Woman insufficiently feminist, or does she represent the wrong kind of feminism?  No other member of the Justice League has to face these questions.

Wonder Woman had a terrible burden that no other super hero film had to bear.  It’s really surprising that the film is as good as it is.  I saw it again on Friday and I brought one of my friends and it held up well the second time around.  My friend enjoyed it very much; as soon as it was done, she turned to me and said, “That was really good!”

Anway, seeing the film again, especially with this piece in my mind at the time, I started to ask myself, “Does Wonder Woman win in her own movie?”

More on that in Part 2.

 

 

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Barbara Bonney “Deh vieni, non tardar”

A good friend of mine is on an opera kick right now.  No complaints.  She suggested we see the Cleveland Opera Circle’s performance of The Marriage of Figaro at the end of April.  It was a lovely time.

Here is Barbara Bonney singing one of the popular arias, where Susanna tortures her new husband by making him think she is about to meet a lover on their wedding night.  (As an aside, a lot of people brought their kids to the show.  Considering that the entire show is about adultery, that seemed weird.)

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Cleveland Shakespeare Festival’s Taming of the Shrew: Summer of the Shrew Part Deux

It wouldn’t be summer without the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival’s outdoor free theater.   This year they begin with Taming of the Shrew.  I wish they had done this last year, because I did a bit of The Summer of the Shrew last year.  So, I will call this Summer of the Shrew Part Deux.

The play actually writes its own induction, setting up the idea that the Taming of the Shrew is a play performed by a woman’s charity organization.  Most of the characters, including Petruchio, are played by women.

The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is at its best when they are doing the comedies.  The histories and tragedies are good, but the comedies are fun.  Taming of the Shrew is no exception.  Katherine and Petruchio are portrayed broad enough to be hilarious, and real enough to temper the farce.  The play definitely goes for the angle that Petruchio does not love Katherine, but he does want to break her, and ultimately succeeds in doing so.  Despite the seriousness of this interpretation, the play never lost its sense of humor.

Tranio

I think in some ways having a woman play Petruchio enables the production to go much farther with the domestic abuse angle.  If a man played Petruchio, and he clearly desired to break and subjugate Katherine in this way, the play would be not be funny.  An actress does not have that problem.  She can be forceful and manipulative and somewhat heartless, and still be funny.

The actress who plays Katherine also understand that Katherine needs to be broad, and somewhat unhinged.  When Petruchio and Katherine meet, she throws a large number of items and screams like a spoiled child.  Katherine is very much a spoiled child, and she must be portrayed that way.  She ties up her younger sister and drags her around the stage to torment her.  Her father ultimately failed to restrain her as a child, and now everyone pays the price.

The rest of the cast was also excellent.  When I reread Taming of the Shrew last year, I didn’t really care about Lucentio, Bianca, and the lovers who come to court her.  In this production, I really enjoyed these portions.  The actress who played Tranio was a load of fun.  Bianca also did a good job as the “perfect” daughter who slowly reveals a rebellious streak as the play continues.

The Taming of the Shrew was everything that I love about the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival.  Now, I feel as though summer has officially begun!

Bianca and Katherine

Up next, The Scottish Play.  Can’t wait!

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Emma’s Random (Wonder Woman) Thoughts

*Spoilers*Spoilers*Spoilers*Spoilers*Spoilers*Spoilers*

 

1 I knew almost nothing about Wonder Woman before I saw this movie.  I remembered her briefly from a Boys and Girls Club commercial as a child, but that is it.

2 I did feel a bit of obligation to see this film, especially given my Films About Women series.  One of my co-workers was telling me how directors such as Joss Wheden have tried to get this film made in the 90’s.  Each time, studios shot it down, because Wonder Woman wouldn’t make any money because no one would see an action film about a woman.  Grrr.  (Time to revive my Films About Women series!)

3 In studios’ defense, no one went to see Halley Barrie’s Catwoman, but that’s because the film was one of the worst of the films ever made.

4 I went with very low expectations.  I adore the Dark Knight Trilogy but I have not seen any subsequent films.  I heard about all of the problems with Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad, so I never saw any of them.  I wasn’t sure this would be any good.

5 I really enjoyed Wonder Woman.

6 I really loved how they started out with all of the Amazons.  As I said, I know nothing about the Wonder Woman comics but I couldn’t help but think about how daring it was to start off the film with all women!  I’ve written before about the Bechdel test is flawed, but the film passed less than five minutes!

7 The film definitely made me curious about Diana’s origins.  I really wanted to know the truth about her origins and her powers.

Wonder Woman

8 I loved Diana’s optimism and simplicity.  By simplicity, I mean she believes in the goodness of mankind.  She believes her mother’s story that mankind is objectively good and that they are corrupted by an outside force, Ares, the god of war.  This is important because her arc is not simply one of innocence lost and maturity gained.  It is about faith being challenged and evolving.  Diana has faith in the story her mother told her; faith in the goodness of humanity.  This faith does not survive, but her faith evolves into something more substantial and complex.

9 I don’t like Chris Pine, so I really didn’t expect all that much from him.  He was fine though, but I don’t have anything else to say about him.

10  The fish out of water dynamic was really well done with Wonder Woman.  I loved her destroying the Georgian clothes (everyone in Youtube videos referred to the clothes as Edwardian, but that is absurd.  Edward VII died in 1910 and his son, George V, came to the throne.  He was king during WWI.  This means that the eponymous name for the era is Georgian.) and wondering how women could fight in the clothes.

11 I also liked the fact that Wonder Woman was completely surrounded by men in the film once she leaves her home island.  I usually hate that, but in this case it plays up her vulnerability (emotionally) by depriving her of an ally.  When a woman is in a scenario with all men, she knows that she is on her own; she cannot trust any of the men in this scenario and she knows she will have to work and fight to be respected and have her voice heard.  Diana is not physically or sexually vulnerable, but the fact that she does not know anything about men makes her vulnerable in other ways.

12 It’s a stupid thing, but I was really glad no one referred to the war as WWI.  They called it the War to End All Wars (no one called it The Great War) but I was glad that they did not slip.

13 I had to laugh at the traditional portrayal of Wonder Woman for a second.  When Wonder Woman steps out of the trench in No Man’s Land, she lets her hair down.  That is ridiculous.  I can’t imagine any woman who fights or does sports with her hair down.  I understand the original comic book artists were sexist enough to want her to be “hot” but fighting with hair down is impractical.

14 I know there are stories about women who cried during the film.  I didn’t do that, but it was actually thrilling to see Wonder Woman climb out of the trench and deflect the bullets.

15 It was also exciting to see her attacking the soldiers and generally kicking ass.  The podcast “Who Talks First?”  asked, “Is this what men feel when they see action movies?”  It’s possible, though in a way no, because they take it for granted that the star of the action movie is someone like them.

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(Picture courtesy of Psychology Today.)

16 I loved the “Shield!” moment in the major fight.  It shows that Steve is not intimidated by Diana or sees himself in competition with Diana.  He sees the two of them as being on the same team and they work together.  So refreshing!

17 The villains were pretty one-dimensional.

18 This film felt very much like a Marvel movie.  Diana’s character arc has a lot in common with Captain America.  The music and the look of the film definitely reminded me of the Marvel films.

19 I loved the line that Ares demands human sacrifice.  That’s actually true.

20 I liked the fact that Diana is forced to face the idea that humans are corruptible and not simply under the influence of some evil force.  She has to decide if she is going to fight for humanity.   She and Ares are foils for each other.  Diana believes that humans are only capable of good, Ares believes that humans are only capable of evil.  Diana learns to find the good and the beauty in humanity, in one of its darkest moments, but she also must learn to accept the darkness as a part of humanity.  She has to be true to her beliefs and at the same time modify them in the face of reality.

21 I know Jordan and Eddie didn’t like the fact that there was a love interest in the film.  It didn’t bother me.  I actually agree with the Wonder Woman director Patti Jenkins.

“I feel like one of the most ironically sexist things that happened to women heroes for so long,” Jenkins explained, “was that they had universal storytelling taken away from them. So, male superheroes could have Lois Lane. They can have love, they can have vulnerability, they can have complexity. But women superheroes or strong women characters had to be, ‘I don’t need anyone, I’m the toughest person in the world.’ That’s not fair to anybody. No human being is an island like that.”

http://comicbook.com/dc/2017/06/09/wonder-woman-steve-trevor-chris-pine-patty-jenkins/

I like the fact that he died for the sake of humanity at the end, which gives Diana a concrete reason to believe that mankind is capable of more than simply war, violence and death.  She still has to make a choice about whether or not she will accept his example, and it would have been completely understandable if she had decided that one decent act did not override all of the horrors that she has seen and that humanity was beyond saving.

Dying also completes Steve’s arc.  Oh, I have to talk about that for a second.  Patti Jenkins did for Steve what no Superman director has ever done for Lois Lane, Jane from Thor Mary Jane from Spiderman, any of Batman’s love interests, or whatever her name was from Dr. Strange  (I could look it up, but what’s the point?  It’s not like she’s a character in the film).  Patty Jenkins gave Steve a complete arc.  Think about that.  I wish the director of the sequel of Dr. Strange and Zack Snyder would watch this film and decide to give Lois Lane or Nondescript Love Interest in Dr. Strange arcs of their own, other than Falling in Love with Hero.  They won’t though, and since the final Thor film has already been made, it’s too late to give Natalie Portman something other to play than Dr. Cardboard Cutout.

Seriously, I hate Lois Lane.  Can they kill her in the next movie?  Does she ever die in the comics?  If not, I don’t care.  Kill her.  Now.  And I don’t mean kill her and have Superman rotate the earth and bring her back, I mean kill her.  Or at the very least, can she dump Superman and leave the films?

22 I was disappointed that the film ends with the CGI blowout fest, but not surprised.

23 At the end of the film, when Diana says that she learned that it’s all about love or something, I just thought, “Really?”   I am growing cynical in my old age.

24 Patti Jenkins is a good director and she deserves to direct any picture the studios throw her way.  (I also enjoyed Monster as well.)  As Star Wars Scavenger’s Hoard podcast stated, “This is what it’s like to have the female gaze so prominent in a film!”

25 I walked out of the theater wanting to see the film again.  I am hoping to see it again next Friday.  I am actually tempted to revisit my Woman Warrior Virgin post that I did about Rey from Star Wars, and how that trope plays out in Wonder Woman.

 

 

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Emma’s Random (West Side Story) Thoughts: It’s All Maria’s Fault

1 If you have never seen West Side Story at Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra performing the score live, you have never seen West Side Story.

2 I haven’t seen West Side Story in almost 10 years, so I was not sure what I would think about the film or the show.

3 The music is still phenomenal.  When the Cleveland Orchestra started playing the overture, I was thrilled.  My mom started crying.  I can’t blame her.

4 I couldn’t help notice that virtually none of the the Puerto Ricans were actually Puerto Rican, or Hispanic.  They were wearing incredibly heavy, dark makeup.  They couldn’t find a single Puerto Rican who could sing and dance?  When George Gershwin staged Porgy and Bess, he was able to cast an entire company of classically trained African American performers.  (Rita Moreno is Puerto Rican.)

5 I cried during “Maria.”  I usually do, during the “Maria, say it loud and there’s music playing.”

6 The audience laughed during “Tonight” when Tony told Maria that he loved her.  So did I.  First of all, they’ve been talking to each other for ten minutes.  Second of all, neither Natalie Wood or Richard Beymer are teenagers, so it seems ridiculous for him to speak that way.  I was a little worried that the film wouldn’t work anymore.

7 The live music was incredible, but there were a few moments when they were off tempo from the singers.  They quickly corrected themselves though.

8 I realized this time around that the entire thing is Maria’s fault.  I am serious.  Tony wasn’t going to go to the rumble; he only goes because Maria asks him.  He would never have been there to kill Bernardo.

9 West Side Story makes two significant choices that heighten the tragedy of Bernardo’s death.

A In Romeo and Juliet, Bernardo’s analogue is Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin.  In West Side Story, he is her brother.  This makes his death all the more tragic, because it truly seals the fate of the young lovers.  Even if Maria is able to forgive him, their relationship is now doomed.

B The decision to change “America” from the original stage production gives Bernardo a depth that Tybalt does not have.  In Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt is fiery, and that’s about it.  There is no reason for him to be that way.  He is less of a character than an instrument of the plot.  However, Bernardo is a young man struggling to adapt to a new city that does not want him or his people.  (I don’t want to say a different country because Puerto Rico is a territory of the US, not a separate country.)   There is a discussion in the movie (and play) where he points out that Chino has a better job than Tony, but he only makes half of what Tony makes, because Tony is an American.

The movie version of the song “America” heightens the sympathy for Bernardo.  In the original stage play, the Puerto Rican girls, Rosalia and Anita, sing a song that is basically about how Puerto Rico is an impoverished Hell hole and America is the promised land.  It’s actually pretty racist in a way.  There is an underlying fear in the song about the overcrowded Puerto Rico and the fact that the Puerto Ricans procreate.

In the movie, the song is a bit more pointed.  The subject is not the dirty, poor, Puerto Ricans procreating like rabbits, but the promise of America being undercut by discrimination.  Bernardo’s references to having door shut in his face and being denied an apartment because of his accent gives him a psychological realism that Tybalt does not have.  Bernardo is a fighter in a gang because society has marginalized him; Tybalt is a fighter because…plot.

 

11 I cried when Maria found out that Tony killed her brother.

12 In West Side Story, Tony and Maria have sex, but it has no bearing on the plot.  In Romeo and Juliet, it is actually very significant to the plot.  Juliet sleeps with Romeo, and the next morning, her parents tell her that she is going to marry Paris.  Juliet is Catholic.  Her marriage to Romeo is ratum et consummatum, ratified and consummated.  This means that it cannot be broken.  She is trapped.  And so is Friar Lawrence.  He is being asked to officiate at a bigamous, invalid, adulterous union.  The stakes are fucking high.

13 Once again, the death of Tony is Maria’s fault.  She tells Anita to go tell Tony that she will be late, which of course leads to Tony believing that she is dead.  She wasn’t that late!  He would never have known!  Every decision that Maria makes backfires terribly and everyone dies.

14 The “taunting” scene is incredibly well done.  Arthur Laurents called it the “attempted rape” scene and it definitely gives that vibe, but not overly so.

15 Is this a hopeful ending?  My mom felt that the music did not resolve at the end, which implies that the tensions could emerge again.

16 The Cleveland Plain Dealer said that Cool is an underrated song.  I disagree.  Cool is a great song, and I often find myself humming that one.

Plus, how many musical songs ended up as Gap commercials?

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Emma’s Random (Reylo) Thoughts Part 7: Sex and Danger

Well, the trend of people reading my Reylo posts continues, so, here follows another shameless attempt to get more views.  🙂

Many people find the idea of a sexual dynamic between Rey and Kylo Ren troubling because Kylo Ren is the antagonist and Rey is the protagonist.  Moreover, Kylo Ren is set up as a scary, menacing character.

The argument argues that there is a binary relationship between sexual attraction and fear.  A person either inspires fear or sexual attraction, but not both.  This may be true for straight men, but I don’t think that straight women experience these two states as mutually exclusive.

Case in point: a few weeks ago I went on a date for coffee with someone I met online.  I told my best friend and my mom, but more importantly, I told them the name of the person, the address of the coffee shop where we met, his phone number, and the time where we were meeting.  I also promised that I would text them as soon as we were finished to let them know that I was on my way home.  Why did I do that?  It’s quite simple.  I did that so that my mom and friend would have information to give to the police in case the guy kidnapped me.  (Before you think to yourself, “Wow.  What a paranoid bitch!” let me remind you of the Craigslist Killer.  There.  Now you can think of me as a paranoid bitch.)  I don’t think I’m alone in taking these kinds of precautions.

Last year I went to a baseball game with coworkers and my friend experienced Every Woman’s Dilemma.  She had to go to the bathroom, but she also had an unfinished drink.  What to do?  She turned to one of our co-workers, a man, and said, “Now, don’t put anything in my drink.”  He jokingly promised to “rufi the shit out of her drink.”  (Hahahaha!  Rape.  Hilarious.)  She’s not the only woman to worry about this.  I was at a brunch a few months later with a larger group of people.  One woman went to the bathroom and she asked a couple of other woman and myself to “watch her drink.”

Now, obviously much of this is due to rape culture, but I don’t think that accounts for the entirety of the phenomenon.  I think that the ultimate source of this attitude is not a result of social conditioning but rather a response to biological norms.

I remember very clearly the first day of my freshman year of high school.  Let me be more specific.  I do not remember the classes or lunch, but I strongly remember walking through the hallways and realizing that all of the guys in my class were now taller than me.  At first, it was simply amusing, especially since the girls had been taller than they were for most of middle school.  But then it dawned on me that this new dynamic (the guys being taller and stronger) was irreversible.  At that moment, I remember realizing that the balance of power had shifted.  It had shifted decisively, and it had shifted permanently.

Men rarely get this, which is why the authors of a dating guide for men asked their readers to engage in a thought experiment.  You can read the entire thought experiment   but it can be summed up as follows.  He imagined the readers to imagine that they are gay, and they go to a local gay bar.  As they walk in with their friends, they realize that all of the men in the gay bar are at least six inches taller than them and have twice the upper body strength and grip strength.  Margaret Atwood is famous for saying “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them.  Women are afraid that men will kill them.”  She’s right, but this is not simply because of societal conditioning.  This also reflects the biological reality that the average man could easily kill the average woman with his bear hands, if he wanted to.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not arguing that the average man is physically violent towards women.  This is simply not true.  My point is that the physical attributes that straight women find attractive in men (height, strength) also inspire fear because they realize how vulnerable they would be if the men turned against them.

I don’t think men think about this with few exceptions.

 

I think that this link between sexuality and danger is most clearly seen in vampire films.  (REAL Vampire Films.)   Ever since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, vampires have often been celebrated for their erotic nature.  (Bram Stoker’s Dracula is also a compelling anti-Christ figure, but another story for another time.)  The drinking blood has clear sexual connotations in the novel, though with a very different context (fear of female of sexuality).  Instead, I want to focus on the play based on the novel, and the portrayal of Dracula in subsequent movies.

In 1932, Bela Lugosi was asked about why women love horror movies.

When I was on stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.  They came again and again, thrilling to the shocking story.  True, many men were in the audience, but most of them had been brought by women, who craved the subtle sex intimacy brought about when both sat watching the terrifying incidents of the film.  In the same way, women were most thrilled and intrigued by the screen version of Dracula. The blood-sucking  monster of the story excited strange thoughts and strange feelings.

(As quoted by Gary Don Rhodes’ Lugosi, His Life in Films, Onstage, and in the Hearts of Horror Lovers.)  pg 292

Bela Lugosi would later estimate that 97% of his fan mail after Dracula was from women, as quoted in Arthur Lenning’s The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi.

(I believe that the filmmakers intended this response.  The film, was not released on Halloween, but on Valentine’s Day.)

This same dynamic exists in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.   The Phantom is a dangerous murderer, but he’s the one who gets all the fan girls.

I also want to point out that in these stories, the heroine/damsel in distress does NOT end up with the erotic/danger figure.  In Dracula, Mina’s husband and Van Helsing destroy Dracula.  In the Phantom of the Opera, Christine does offer to stay with the Phantom to save her fiance’s life (and as an act of compassion), but he decides to release her and she marries Raul.  (Paint Never Dries does not exist!)

In these stories, the women in the stories (and the audience) can experience attraction to a figure that could easily kill them and poses a threat to them.  It is a heightened expression of the dynamic that many straight women experience in their interactions with men.

So, what does this dynamic means for Reylo?

Well, this dynamic means that sexual attraction and danger are not mutually exclusive.  The anti’s on Tumblr argue that Kylo Ren is abusive towards Rey.  I wonder what they would think of the fan’s reactions to Dracula in 1931.  Dracula drinks the blood of Mina and forces her to drink his blood.  He threatens to kill her; not just in this life, but in the afterlife as well.

Yet a year later, Bela Lugosi reported this to an interviewer.

Women wrote me letters.  Ah, what letters women wrote me!  Young girls.  Women from seventeen to thirty.  Letters of a horrible hunger.  Asking me if I cared only for maidens’ blood.  Asking me if I had done the play because I was in reality that sort of Thing.  And through those letters, couched in terms of shuddering, transparent fear, there ran the hideous note of — hope.

(As quoted by Gary Don Rhodes’ Arthur Lenning’s The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi. )

The Star Wars films can certainly play on this dynamic.  They already do.

Dracula Reborn

(Hmm, this picture reminds me of something.)

tumblr_nzqzlfidyG1u3eec8o1_400

 

(But what?)

Rey's Abduction

(Nope, can’t think of it.)

Notice, that this dynamic is totally consistent with

1 an antagonistic relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey.

In order for these stories to work, the erotic/danger character must be at least somewhat scary.  In 2004, Joel Schumacher tried to heighten the romantic aspect of the Phantom even further and downplay his menacing side and one of the results of this is that the movie no longer works.

We see the same thing at play in Twilight.  I saw part of the first movie a few years ago.  I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about, so I rented it and thought I would watch it one night instead of writing a final essay for a class.  Eventually I got bored and turned it off to write my paper.  (That’s how bad it is.  I willingly chose to do homework instead of watch that movie.)  I am not going to go into why the movie is boring and terrible, but I think that part of it is that Edward, for all his supposed threat to Bella, is not scary.  And as a result, the story does not work.

2 Rey eventually destroying Kylo Ren, and NOT ending up with Rey.

Indeed, I would argue that this dynamic would preclude the two characters actually having a romantic relationship and living happily ever after.  Real vampire movies do not end with the girl falling in love with the vampire and ending up with him.

We see a similar problem in Paint Never Dries.  For all of the women who mourn the fact that Christine must inevitably reject the sexy, dangerous Phantom in favor of boring, sexless Raul, I don’t think that most of the fans actually want to see Christine end up with the Phantom.  This is why there was such powerful backlash to Paint Never Dries, and also why Paint Never Dries does not work.

Personally, I think this is the most likely direction for Reylo, if Star Wars actually decides to go down this path.  As I’ve said elsewhere and in this post, but the Force Awakens deliberately draws upon the monster motif from earlier movies. They also chose art for Star Wars Celebration that deliberately called to mind this imagery.  This would build upon the imagery of the first film.

Will they?  I think this is likely, though I don’t know how explicit it would be.  I think it would be far more powerful if it was subtle.  Plus, these are films primarily marketed to children, so there are limits to what they can show in these films.

Oh, I decided to end with Thriller because it is a pretty good example.  Michael Jackson, in the song, is trying to seduce a girl by telling her “It’s close to midnight, and something evil’s lurking in the dark.”

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Cupid and Pysche by Jacques Louis David

The Cleveland Museum of Art has this painting, and I’ve learned that no one knows who the model for Psyche was.

Cupid and Psyche Jacque Louis David

The model for Cupid was a teenage boy, and since the two of them modeled separately, he never saw the model of played Pysche, or even the finished painting.   We know this from letters that the museum has, because the teenage boy became rather obsessed with this beautiful, forbidden, unobtainable girl.

 

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