Friday, May 26, 2006

"Taking Lives" (SPOILER ALERT)

You know you're watching an...let's say...ODD movie when the twist at the end involves a silicone pregnant belly. The put-in-her-place ex-FBI agent, barefoot and pregnant (literally) from a night of "bad judgement" (code for the fact that she slept with the serial killer who was pretending to be a sensitive artiste. You know women, always falling for the sensitive guy even when he's completely obviously a killer!) The twist? It was ALL A STING!!! The FBI agent was never fired for having sex with a murderer who they thought was a witness at the time! She's pretending to be pregnant and alone in a creepy house in the middle of Pennsylvania! She KNEW he was watching her!

The twist on the stereotype is interesting, but I think it's misguided. The stereotype I'm referring to is: the tough, unfeminine woman, good at her job, must be put in her place by the men in the story. This sterotype plays itself out in many ways (the HBO description even referred to her "annoying" the police men with whom she is working). The end is just the logical conclusion to this constant disregard for a PERSON who is good at her job.

Another side of it: she's only good at her job when her feelings don't get in the way. Blinded by love for a (shock!) sensitive man, she can't see what is completely obvious to the audience (that he's an insane serial killer). She is then so bottled up with revenge that she devotes 2 years of her life and career to catching this guy. How does she do this? She becomes the sterotype she's been dancing around the entire movie. "Taking Lives" ends with the now un-pregnant Angelina Jolie calling the detective she worked with on the case two years ago (the man that SLAPPED her when he confronted her about the serial killer sex). She tells him "It's done. It's finished." What does he say? "Good. I was worried."

(I'll take this moment to acknowledge the perpetual equation of sex and violence that is extremely highlighted in this movie. No time to explore it, but it's there with a flashing red arrow pointing to it.)

And that's how the pregnant woman stereotype became the unpregnant woman stereotype. The men in the movie still control her lives. They still show her what's right and wrong (even though she works for the FBI and is a "top" special agent).

I know there's nothing really new here. Feminists have been bemoaning this crap for years. But I found it interesting and, yes, maddening, that they acknowledged the stereotype that they were promoting. I feel like they are saying, "Look, we're not going THIS far with the sterotype! Be happy! She's not pregnant, she's just consumed by revenge!"

Addition: I just saw the poster for the movie. I think it says almost everything I did. OF COURSE, it doesn't show any of her strength. All you need to sell a movie is an image of Jolie in the throes of passion/the grip of violence.

No comments: