Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

by Mary Haines

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Starring Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore and Colin Firth, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material. It’s directed by Matthew Vaughn who helmed the first Kingsman movie and is known for quirky action films.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
Let’s get a few things out of the way first. I loved Kingsman: Secret Service. I’ve seen it 5 or 6 times. I love Colin Firth, and I love fun action movies. I did not love this movie. There are more reasons why than we will go into in this column because that’s not what we’re here for. What we’re here for is to talk about how Kingsman deals with female characters.

ROXYKingsman writers don’t seem to be able to handle more than one female agent at a time, but when they write them, they do it well, I’ll give them that.  Roxy was one of my favorite characters from the first movie. She was strong, she was sensible, she was sure of herself and her abilities. She was also highly skilled and extremely competent.  This makes it all the more disappointing that she was barely in The Golden Circle.
GINGER: Probably the reason that Roxy was written out of the sequel, Halle Berry plays American tech support (Merlin’s counterpart), Ginger Ale. At first, she comes off as a bit of a shy nerd stereotype, but over the course of the movie, you realize that she’s intelligent, competent, and very confident with who she is.  She knows what she wants and keeps going after it, even in the face of unwarranted opposition. I just wish that the writing team could handle more than one female agent at a time because when they do them, they do them well.
TILDE: One of the most controversial parts of the original Kingsman came in the form of an anal sex joke at the end of the movie. I’m not going to pretend to be impartial, I thought it was tacky and tasteless and was “off” from the tone of the rest of the movie. It felt like an instance of using a female character solely as a sex object and that disappointed me.  I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Princess Tilde showed up in the sequel as what promised to be a fully formed character. And she was …. for a while.  Then she took a hard right turn into “girlfriend who wants a proposal out of nowhere” that flowed into “girlfriend who leaves boyfriend without a word over one semi-fight.”  Which, naturally, then dwindled into a damsel in distress and she spent the rest of the movie needing to be rescued — again.

CLARA: Speaking of using a female character solely as a sex object … I present Clara. She exists to be a bad guy’s girlfriend, a prop for the main character’s relationship problems, and the personification of this edition’s sleazy sex joke. She was usable, disposable, and entirely expendable.

POPPY: Julianne Moore as Harvard businesswoman/domestic goddess/drug queenpin was probably the best thing about The Golden Circle and is responsible for one full star added onto this movie’s score.  Kingsman had a cool female henchwoman in the first movie. You couldn’t call Gazelle a fully developed character, but she definitely had style.  Poppy has style and substance. She built her own little world and commands it with a sinister charm and absolute authority.  Julianne Moore plays her with a scenery-chewing sense of fun that really brings the character alive and makes her outrageously memorable. That said, it’s interesting to note that none of Poppy’s guards or gang are women — thus cementing the theory that the Kingsman writers and/or producers can only handle one female character of any particular type per movie.

The Golden Circle is certainly not in the category of worst movies I’ve ever seen, but you can’t come close to beating the Bechdel test when none of your female characters ever interact with each other. If you have twenty front-line characters and only three of them are female, you have an issue. The Kingsman movies really do a wonderful job at depicting deep freindships and loving relationships between men — now they just need to extend that range to the other fifty percent of the human population and they might be getting somewhere.
It

It

______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Starring Bill Skarsgard, Finn Wolfhard, and a cast of talented newcomersIt is rated R for violence/horror, bloody images,
and for language. Based on the novel by Steven King.  
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
It is a classic horror movie.  It has murders and severed body parts, haunted houses, dark sewers, forbidding woods and monsters that come from the depths of our nightmares. It has a scary clown. A very scary clown. Perhaps the scariest clown in collective movie memory.  Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal of “It” is truly terrifying. He drools, he taunts, he tempts, and he kills. He jumps out from hidden corners and bends his body to scuttle up a flight of stairs after you. “It” turns itself into the image of your deepest, darkest fear and chases you down with purpose. If you are a fan of the horror genre, there’s simply no reason for you not to see and enjoy this movie.
*
Having said all of that, It delivers on deeper levels, as well.  If you’re a fan of King, you already know his propensity for telling coming of age stories with a sinister twist.  At its core, It is a movie about growing up. A group of seven misfits, aged 13, come together over the course of a summer and form an unbreakable bond. It is this enduring bond of friendship that ultimately allows them to defeat the monster that has killed classmates, friends, even relatives in the case of leading man, Bill Denbrough.
*
Bill forms one corner of a teenaged love triangle with new-kid-in-town Ben, and Bev, the Losers Club only female member.  Rounding out the 7, you have class clown Richie, smothered son Eddie, Rabbi’s kid Stan and homeschooled Mike.  Stan is often ostracized for his religion, and Mike because of his race. Together, they help each other survive the monster trying to kill them, coming to understand that it is their unity that makes them so powerful.
*
It’s not a stretch from there to understand that It works as a metaphor for the all-too-real perils of adolescence. Your friends, the community you build with each other, is all important. Particularly when you have a bad home life. Unsurprisingly, at least 6 of the Losers Club would rather be in the sewers than at home. (Richie‘s family situation goes unaddressed in the movie.) Bill‘s parents are so wrapped up in their own grief they have nothing left for his. Bill‘s status as de-facto leader of the Losers Club is unquestioned, and it is the loss of his younger brother that drives the whole quest forward.
*
Mike lost his parents to a gruesome fire and is kept isolated by his relatives on their sheep farm, made to participate in the gruesome work. Ben is not only new but fat. A condition that guarantees ridicule and abuse from his peers. Stan can’t live up to his father’s expectations and is chafing against the trappings of his family’s religion. Eddie is the victim of a classic smothering mother. Much more than the proverbial helicopter, she keeps her only son as close as she can, using him as an outlet for her own hypochondria.  As the only adult woman in the movie, Eddie‘s mother is a construct, built out of all the worst traits of motherhood, both real and imagined.
*
And then we have Bev. Lone female member of the Losers Club, Bev has arguably the worst home life of them all. Being raised solely by her father, Bev lives terrified and abused in her own home. When “It” manifests itself as Bev‘s worst nightmare, It doesn’t have to look far, just needing to don the face and form of her only parent. At 13, all of the kids are exploring their emerging sexuality, but Bev is the only one who is sexualized. Painting a perfect picture of the different ways boys and girls are treated, Bev‘s physical development has subjected her to sexual harassment from her classmates and the slimy smear of abuse that’s painted over her relationship with her father. When Bev is struggling to escape an attempted rape by her father, it’s not clear if he’s possessed by “It” or not. And that makes the scene all that more terrifying — the knowledge that there are fathers (and others) out there who do this to their children without the need of possession by an external monster is what should keep us all up at night.
*
Bev is also the fulcrum of a love triangle in the Losers Club, but it is a gentle, soft-edged triangle; no sharp points to draw blood. Ben has all of the longings of unrequited love but quietly accepts that Bev‘s feelings are for Bill.  He accepts this without anger towards either of his friends; he never expected that he had a right to Bev‘s love just because of his for her and there is no whining about being friend-zoned. For her part, although Bev chooses Bill for the short term, she chooses herself in the end and that’s a healthy message for thirteen-year-old girls. (Although, I don’t think many of them should be seeing It.)
*
It is a 4-star horror movie. It is a 4-star coming of age movie. It leaves us with the knowledge that while terrifying killer monster clowns are scary, what’s sometimes really frightening is the reality of being a young teenager. It shows us true horror through the eyes of 13-year-old kids.  To them, the killer monster clown is something that they can fight together.  What they can’t always defeat are the realities of their day to day life; not having control of their own destinies, under the power of adults who can’t or won’t enter into their world or their concerns, relentless bullying unchecked by teachers or parents, living in an abusive home.  The terror that should follow us home and into our nightmares isn’t Pennywise – it’s Mike‘s Uncle, it’s Henry Bowers, it’s Bev‘s father.  True fright comes from being powerless, and who’s more powerless in our world than children?
mother!

mother!

I’m super excited to begin writing movie reviews for you from a feminist point of view. I’m doubly excited because the first assignment happens to be my favorite movie so far of 2017! 
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, mother! is rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity, and language. It’s directed by Darren Aronofsky of Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream fame.  
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
There will be think pieces piled on top of think pieces picking over the obvious religious topics that this movie delves into. I will leave those topics to those who are more qualified than I. At a basic level, Mother! Is the story of the Bible presented in a very fresh, new way.

*

Lawrence is Mother Earth (although never actually given that name). Bardem is called “the poet” throughout but is obviously a physical manifestation of a creator or God. The movie is a heartbreaking look at how humans have raped and pillaged Mother Earth over the millennia. You are forced by the direction of the movie to focus solely on Lawrence and her confusion, heartbreak, and fury as the events unfold around her. After watching, you will think twice before you fail to recycle or fill up your SUV.

*

But, if we take 3 steps back and simply look at this movie on its face, it’s every single married woman who is being neglected by her partner. Lawrence is firing on all cylinders here with a raw emotion that will feel familiar to every woman in the audience. She rotates between begging for her needs to be met and raging at being ignored by everyone around her. For this alone, I was moved to tears more than once. Mother is also never physically safe; her fear is familiar and therefore terrifying in its realness.

*

This movie is going to polarize audiences. There will be very few people who leave the theater without feeling strongly one way or the other. I am hoping that Aronofsky’s unique exploration of Biblical themes doesn’t turn off viewers and make them miss this masterpiece of a film.
*
I was completely swept away into Aronofsky’s world. I simultaneously wanted to hide my face and not miss a single second. I give my very first review score of a solid 5 out of 5 stars. I cannot wait to hear what each of you think of this movie in the comments!
 
NEVERTHELESS, SHE REGENERATED

NEVERTHELESS, SHE REGENERATED

by Miriam Aarons

Since its debut in 1963, Doctor Who has become a British cult- classic. Through the reincarnation of thirteen Doctors, the show possesses a unique ability to evolve with its audience. Unlike simply replacing the actor of a specifically defined character, each reincarnation of The Doctor allows the character to change without limit. From the series’ first Doctor, William Hartnell, to the most recent reincarnation of the twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, each actor has added depth and contrast to the iconic character.

Although the show’s canon supports unlimited diversity in casting, all twelve reincarnations of The Doctor have been cast as white males. Their ages, personality, and appearance have covered a wide spectrum; however, the character’s gender and race have never wavered. Although the character has an unquenchable thirst to provide support to the disenfranchised and build bridges of peace between hate, real-life minorities have remained unrepresented in his reincarnations. While a racially diverse Doctor has yet to be seriously discussed by the show’s writers and producers, Doctor Who will debut its first female Doctor in the show’s 2017 Christmas special.

The thirteenth Doctor will be played by British actress, Jodie Whittaker. Whittaker’s performance debut was her role as Jessie in the 2006 film, Venus. She has since acted in several films and television shows including Wired, Black Mirror, and Broadchurch. It was during her role as Beth Latimer on the BBC series Broadchurch that Whittaker worked with Chris Chibnall. Chibnall eventually cast her as the thirteenth Doctor when he took over the series from Steven Moffett.

Despite the shows consistent mantra that The Doctor can reincarnate into any physical and psychological version of himself, Doctor Who fans have deeply seeded opinions on whether changing The Doctor’s gender is the natural progression for the character or a betrayal to his identity.  Immediately after the announcement that Whittaker would play the thirteenth doctor, the internet erupted with nasty, sexist insults and dramatic odes to a fandom now lost forever in the minds of men (and even some women) who refused to imagine a world where this iconic character could be played by anyone other than a white male. For anyone who has been attention to Doctor Who fan pages for the last several years, the uproar was not a surprise. This subject has been deeply and viciously debated for years. Whitaker even felt the need to preemptively address the prospect of the backlash in her first statement;

I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.

It wasn’t too long before the sexist memes began to make their appearance in the threads of Facebook articles and tweets. This clever meme plays on the age-old classic “Women belong in the kitchen” mantra:

This next meme is full of such imagination and originality, the argument against a female Doctor may actually take hold in your mind, Dear Reader. Proceed with caution.

The female characters of the Doctor Who franchise have historically served as a companion to The Doctor. While these companions can be defined as strong, intelligent, unique female characters, The Doctor exudes abilities and characteristics companions do not possess. It is important for women and girls to see themselves in fictitious powerful roles so they can then see themselves life’s powerful roles. Beyond that, casting a gender diverse Doctor just makes sense. Thankfully, the negative responses to Whittaker’s casting were exceeded by positive, uplifting responses.

Tim DiChristopher with CNBC reports that the analyst company Amobee “counted 770,000 tweets around “Doctor Who” or the hashtags #DoctorWho13 and #Doctor13 on Jul. 16, the day of the announcement. For those that mentioned Whittaker, sentiment was 39 percent positive and just 6 percent negative. Amobee determined the remaining 55 percent of tweets were neutral.”

The constant reincarnation of a white male into a white male perpetuates the idea that anyone who is not a white male is not a desirable Doctor. The fear of diversity rears its ugly head even when diversity is the foundation of the character. Even a fictitious character from a fictitious universe who shape shifts and travels through time could not escape the hatred and bigotry of people who refuse to see the world beyond themselves. While Doctor Who has finally dipped its toe into the pool of diversity by casting a female Doctor, racial diversity doesn’t seem to even be on the table. The Doctors true potential will never be reached unless the writers and creators take direct action to ensure the Doctor’s diversity does not stop with white females.

__________________________________________________________________________