The Women from U.N.C.L.E

While in Auckland my sister, a friend, and I went to the movies. Yay, time to switch our brains off for a few action packed hours of escapism! But the movie hadn’t even started before things took a slightly more serious turn.

Often trailers are more exciting than the feature itself and I always look forward to seeing what’ll be hitting the cinema soon. But what I saw made both me and my sister snarl in annoyance and whisper snarky comments to each other under our breaths. It was the trailer for “The Man From U.N.C.L.E”.

Full disclosure: I have not seen this film, the following is merely a critique of the trailer.

As a little background, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” is the latest action film from director Guy Ritchie. It’s a remake of a 60s tv series and is very 007-esque. It follows the unlikely teaming up of an American and Russian spy as they have to work together to bring down a mutual threat. During their mission they become entangled with a couple of women who are gun-toting, scheming characters in their own rights. But that’s about where the equality ends.

Even when it seems like the female characters are independently capable and can foot it with the men, the film can’t help but put them back in their place as objects for male fantasies. When a women shows strength, either in standing up to thinly veiled innuendos or in overpowering their male adversary, the scenes still end with them in a sexualised situation. Many of the hand-full of shots of women in this trailer show them in some state of undress, ranging from a hand running up under her skirt to a woman in only her underpants. And with lines like “I like my women strong” and the female villain lounging on the backs of couches, it’s hard to see this film as any more progressive than it’s old-school hollywood counterparts.

I get that it’s a trailer and that they’re trying to entice a certain demographic. And yes, I get that it’s playing off old spy film tropes. But surely it’s about time the “bond girl” cliché was handled with a little more intelligence instead of just spewing old misogynistic images onto the screen, disguised as empowerment.

Yes this is just one film but it does expose a deeper problem in the world of Hollywood. And the fact that the above review could be copy-and-pasted onto almost any blockbuster action flick speaks for itself. Furthermore, let’s not forget that only about half of the films hitting our screens pass the Bechdel test (the test being that at some point in the film two [named] women talk to each other about something other than a man).

Another example of a degrading view of women disguised as empowerment is The Avengers’ Black Widow. A supposedly strong female character, the one beacon of hope for many superhero fans, she is still reduced to her body. In Age of Ultron, Black Widow serves as the “sexy sidekick” while at the same time being slut-shamed not only by her fellow heroes but by the actors who play them (note they say nothing about self professed “Play Boy” Tony Stark). But wait for it, it get’s better: She’s a woman, how can we give her a more complex history while still remembering that she’s a woman? Oh I know, make her one goal in life the need to have children and then take that away from her. Well done us, what a complex, three dimensional and not lazy at all character we’ve created. She is Hollywood’s ideal woman, sexy, strong but still there to satisfy her male co-stars and fit into the box that the film industry has labeled “woman” with a big rubber stamp. And all the while she’s reviled and punished for it.

Oh but these are just films, surely we should just enjoy them for their entertainment value and leave it at that!

Also while in NZ some friends and I went along to a house party to see a band play. Half way through the set everyone in the room (including members of the band who I know personally) started chanting “tits out for the lads”. Needless to say I felt angry, uncomfortable and embarrassed. “Oh look” I hear some of you saying, “there she goes, the angry feminist who can’t take a joke.” I’m sorry if I can’t laugh along while I and 50% of the population are insulted and reduced to objects who’s only purpose for being outside our homes is to accommodate male desire. I guess it’s just some weird hung-up I have.

Whether it’s art imitating life or vice-versa I really don’t care. All I see is a perpetual cycle where one is feeding into the other and until we call this misogyny out for what it is then nothing will change. It makes me angry and also sad that this is the state of the world we live in where one whole gender can be reduced to nothing more than what the other gender can get out of them.

News flash: women are more than their bodies and in buying into this idea we are not only being insulting, but the repercussions of this thinking can and is causing women real harm. So let’s leave this degrading view of women lost and forgotten in a crate in some giant warehouse where it can’t cause any more damage. Because it certainly doesn’t belong here in the 21st century, on our screens or otherwise.

But so I don’t completely end my rant on a depressing note, I’ll leave you with this ray of hope from the Star Wars facebook page:



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