Archivo de la etiqueta: Amy Adams

Female rage: agency, power and retaliation

Warning: Major spoilers of The Handmaid’s Tale, Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies ahead. Proceed only if you have finished all their seasons.

TV and movies have been getting their audiences used to see men represented as a variety of angry, revenge-seeking psychos, just because. Often, these characters are portrayed by typecasted angry men.

We will always have the Bryan Millses (Liam Neeson in Taken) willing to bring the world down in order to find whichever loved one they’re missing, and the Robert McCalls (Denzel Washington in The Equalizer) willing to go to the last consequences to make the world know they’re angry at it. Hell hath no fury when angry men are in the loose.

We get it, men are supposed to be angry, violent and enraged. It’s not like this special set of features has been shoehorned onto men for centuries as a recognizable trait of masculinity, or anything; or that the perpetuation of these very ideas has been more harmful than ever as the time goes by, and certainly it’s not as these type of stereotypes and high expectations bestowed upon them haven’t increased the percentage of suicides on men each year.

These traits, shouldn’t necessarily be linked to men and masculinity, rage is not a feature that should be bestowed upon men, but—as with any other gender stereotype out there—TV and movies have been very good at keeping this trope alive and well. Nevertheless, they have tried to separate them —especially TV shows—from their masculine characters.

Lately, several networks have been making big efforts to balance their series by producing and airing female-led projects based on female-centric experiences of mostly female authors, that have been focusing its perspective on female rage.

One of them is HBO, this enormous powerhouse has single-handedly achieved to release one season of Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of the intriguing thriller Sharp Objects, lead by Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, and one season of Liane Moriarty’s enthralling portrayal of her sexual abuse novel Big Little Lies, lead by Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley,

Hulu and Netflix have also their very own female-centric series on the air, as the former has released two seasons of Margaret Atwood’s adaptation of the feminist thrilling dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, lead by Elisabeth Moss,  and the latter has aired two seasons too of Marvel’s noir series Jessica Jones, lead by Krysten Ritter, all of them with one theme in common: stories that stem and develop from female rage.

Most of the times on these shows, the rage will come from of a place of retaliation, specially against the male dominance that is creeping around them, trying to control their bodies and the decisions women try to make for themselves.

The Handmaid’s Tale is plagued with enraged women that have been stripped of their agency, their capacity to decide over their bodies and their ability to fulfil their basic human needs. The series begins right when its women have reached their boiling point, women that are fed up with being objectified and are starting to act on it.

Women like Emily (Alexis Bledel), who was separated from her wife and kid by Gilead’s Republic—a men-lead new society—in order to become a handmaid at service of the family that owns her, and who, by the back half of the season, starts to kill soldiers, generals and anyone who have been complicit with the system, as a way to take her agency back from their captors.

Or like June (Elisabeth Moss), who was also separated from her family, and has been acting like a human vessel whose only function is to deliver babies for other families, and has started to fight back at the general and his wife that own her, her body and her baby.

Rage is the perfect embodiment of agency for these women because it’s the only thing that makes sense to them, and is capable of making them feel like they matter, like their life is theirs to use and their decisions are theirs to make, and even though they know there’s almost nothing they can do unless Gilead is over, they will try to take back what is theirs by being enraged.

In Big Little Lies, rage appears as a consequence of a threat and also as an embodiment of empowerment. When Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard) starts hitting his wife, Celeste (Nicole Kidman), in front of her friends, they attempt lots of things to try to defend her but is not until Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) pushes him down the stairs on a rage attack that they fully understand the power of the bond they all share. Women will do anything to help their friends, even if it means killing someone in self-defense.

In other cases, female rage will make an appearance not as a response but rather as a result of one of the characters’ upbringing, as a unique trait that will shape their personality entirely. Something so inherently personal that it would be difficult to separate from its owner. Something that it may come from the same place but translate differently between each person.

Camille (Amy Adams) and Amma (Eliza Scanlen), from Sharp Objects, are affected sisters who only know how to act through their rage, the only difference they have is the way they inflict it. Camile does it to herself and her body, Amma, to their friends.

Both are young troubled women whose mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), belittled and smothered, always trying to make them feel bad for everything they did and every decision they made. So, evidently, rage will be the only way they know how to cope.

Whilst Camille decides to canalize her rage at hurting her body with every dark thought she has, Amma acts on it by injuring others. Rage is shown as a weakness in Camille’s head, but it means power on Amma’s. These are two women raised in the same context but with different perspectives of how rage works on them and what can they do with it. In their minds, rage is a power of destruction.

Something similar happens to Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) on Netflix’s Jessica Jones, where its protagonist’s rage stems from a violent upbringing and a series of situations she’s gone through in her life. In Jessica’s case, her special abilities are the living embodiment of her rage, the motor that sustains them and the only way she knows how to face a threat.

Unlike Camille and Amma, Jessica tries to canalize her rage by using her powers to make a difference, to change the reality she’s put herself into and the ones who love her. Instead of being a power of destruction, rage becomes the vehicle from which Jessica tries to rebuild her life.

As we can see, female rage can mean a lot of things. It could very much be a form of retaliation, but also an embodiment of empowerment as a mean to take back one’s agency. It can also be a power of destruction, or a beacon of hope to make great things with one’s life.

What these shows have shown us is that rage is not and should not be a stereotype linked only with men, not only because is harmful but because it’s also a sexist idea. Women can also be angry and do great and bad things whilst being enraged, that’s why we need to be certain about one thing: both men and women can be enraged at the world, we only need to separate it from masculinity and redirect it towards more fruitful things.

 

 

 

Arrival y el poder de la agencia sobre la narrativa

Piensa en un filme (el que quieras) en particular, ahora imagina las partes que la conforman, ¿Cuál de ellas es el vehículo motor? ¿Qué es lo que ayuda a que la película avance y llegue a donde necesita llegar? Si pensaste en la narrativa estás en lo correcto, pero si también te pasaron por la mente los personajes también estás en lo correcto. Un filme necesita de personajes y narrativa coherente para avanzar y llegar a algún lado.

Ahora, piensa de nuevo en cualquier película y dime ¿Es la narrativa la que controla a los personajes o los personajes a la narrativa? ¿Los personajes tienen algún nivel de influencia en su toma de decisiones o esto es designado por la misma narrativa? Si nos pusiéramos a pensar en un sentido literal y técnico es la narrativa siempre la que lleva la batuta cuando de avanzar una historia se trata y los personajes giran y actúan gracias y en consecuencia a ella.

En una historia común, la narrativa llevará a sus personajes de un punto A a un punto B. Este modo de entender y construir una película es el básico, el que la mayor parte de los involucrados en ella toman como base y el que delimita los alcances de la misma. Es una fórmula sencilla de seguir y muy efectiva.

El verdadero problema de aprovecharse de esta fórmula radica en la misma sencillez. Al contar con un método tan sencillo a seguir, Hollywood ha caído en la desgracia de seguir creando historias formulaicas y poco innovadoras, donde no hay cabida para la diferencia y la coherencia narrativa.

¿Cuántas veces no te has encontrado con historias donde los personajes toman decisiones importantes sin una razón coherente de fondo más que porque la narrativa así lo requiere? ¿Cuántos personajes se han perdido en el entramaje de su propia historia al ser despojados de agencia  para funcionar solamente como meros reaccionarios de la narrativa?

Todas estas preguntas me vinieron a la mente después de ver la nueva película de Denis Villeneuve, Arrival. Una revolucionaria historia que usa el Sci-Fi para entender la complejidad humana y el propio entendimiento de la misma. En ella, conocemos a la Doctora Louise Banks (Amy Adams), una lingüista seleccionada para liderar un equipo de especialistas encargado de averiguar la razón por la que 12 naves extraterrestres aterrizaron en diferentes puntos del planeta.

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Alerta de spoiler. Después de este párrafo se hablará de la película en su totalidad, incluyendo el giro final y las repercusiones del mismo. Si no la has visto, no sigas leyendo.

En Arrival la narrativa juega un papel crucial. No solo funge como el motor que mueve a la historia hacia adelante, sino que también le brinda agencia y poder de decisión a sus personajes, permitiendo que actúen y vivan a partir de ellas y no gracias a ellas. Algo que no había visto en una película desde hace mucho tiempo.

La película inicia mostrándonos la vida de Louise con su hija. En una serie de imágenes podemos ver a una madre e hija disfrutando de su tiempo juntas antes del inevitable fin, donde la joven muere abruptamente debido a una enfermedad fatal.  La secuencia es corta y devastadora.  Gracias a la narrativa, y la forma en que está organizada, el filme nos da  a entender que esto sucede antes de la llegada de las naves espaciales.

Al momento que la Doctora Banks comienza a tener contacto con los llamados Heptápodos, ella empieza a ver esos mismos momentos con su hija y no entiende porqué. Sin darles mucha importancia, decide dejarlos pasar.

Gracias a una serie de toma de decisiones, y mucho más adelante en el fime, Louise se percata que los extraterrestres no están en la tierra para causar daño, sino todo lo contrario. Ellos ofrecen la habilidad de poder ver la vida de un ser humano tanto hacia el pasado como al futuro. Una vez más, la narrativa toma protagonismo y nos damos cuenta que lo sucedido con su hija no forma parte de su pasado, sino de su futuro. Aún con toda esa información ella decide seguir su camino y vemos cómo se casa y tiene a su hija más adelante, en el futuro.

Amy Adams plays linguist Louise Banks in Arrival

Arrival confía tanto en la estructuración y perfilación de sus personajes que es capaz de darles la voluntad y agencia suficiente para tomar las decisiones que sean necesarias para justificar sus actos.

A diferencia de otras películas, el filme no necesita explicar las decisiones que sus personajes toman con la narrativa, sino todo lo contrario, cada individuo es dueño de su propia historia y, por lo tanto, es capaz de tomar sus  propias decisiones para darle sentido a la narrativa. En esencia, esta historia está hecha para llegar a este punto, a esa encrucijada donde un individuo con agencia tiene que tomar una decisión de vital importancia.

Louise sabe las consecuencias e implicaciones que podrían tener sus actos, pero aún así, decide vivir todo de nuevo. Para ella, lo importante no es el destino, sino el viaje y está dispuesta a sacrificar su felicidad por ello.

En cierto modo, Arrival establece un argumento haciendo uso de una doble hermenéutica: El arte y la vida real no tiene muchas diferencias, así como nosotros no debemos dejar nuestras decisiones en manos del destino, la mejor forma de contar una historia es siempre dándole agencia y poder de decisión a sus personajes en lugar de justificarlos con el peso de la narrativa.