Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Problem with Fiction's Females

I have sometimes a hard time watching Indiana Jones. It's hard to watch the women who walk around screaming and squealing at everything, especially since they stand in such contrast to Indy the cool professor with a whip who doesn't even handle meeting his ultimate nemesis (snakes) too badly. The Temple of Doom is the worst; Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade aren't as bad, I guess.

I know someone who loves old movies, particularly Hitchcock's. I can enjoy some of them. But I tend to have a hard time with certain (not all) old films because of how the women act. They bother me with their fake, through-man's-eyes version of femininity.

Although I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, I always had mixed feelings about the show, which of course includes the female characters. Counselor Troi is designed as a sex symbol (even though in the earlier symbols she wears that ugly purple-grey color that doesn't even flatter her), and even Doctor Crusher doesn't entirely escape the gaze; Tasha Yar was the era's version of overcoming stereotypes--which means that she had more masculine traits than feminine traits, which is fine for one character but not the only way to overcome stereotypes.

So, naturally, I was surprised to find that I rather liked the women of the early episodes of Doctor Who. I perhaps shouldn't be surprised given that these episodes are from the early sixties, and I tend to like shows from the sixties. I Dream of Jeannie (Jeannie), Get Smart (99), The Dick Van Dyke Show (Laura); it's all generally good. So watching those early episodes, I found myself really liking Barbara and Susan. Ian and even the Doctor tend to treat them a little differently, telling them to stay behind from certain excursions or trying to look after them in a certain way. But Barbara says something to Susan about this that I find interesting. She basically says that she looks on it as them caring and trying to be nice; then she goes ahead and doesn't stay behind or listen to their advice or whatever it may be. She goes along with little things about how she's treated, but she doesn't let that rule who she is or what she does. Watching her and Susan was one of my favorite things about these early episodes.

Characters are products of perspective and observation, and those two traits come from the author (which I'm letting stand for all the people who put together a movie/TV show, as well) of a work and from collective society. So when the formation of a character falls too much under certain nonsense of society, that character can be hard to watch. But when the character can escape all that and simply be, then that is a good character to watch. 

No comments:

Post a Comment