Archivo de la etiqueta: Big Little Lies

Nicole Kidman and her Unbreakable Women

Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, The Beguiled and Big Little Lies. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you to stop reading it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must certainly have seen, heard or know at least one movie where Nicole Kidman has been a part of. She’s been active since 1983 and has won multiple awards for her diverse set of performances.

From Eyes Wide Shut to The Beguiled, Nicole Kidman has always managed to draw people’s attention to her striking and nuanced portrayals over the years. She’s dedicated, hard-working and totally devoted to the art, and that’s something is reflected on everything she’s doing and has done in her career.

In fact, one of Nicole Kidman’s many assets is her ability to choose the right characters for her. Make no mistake, many of them haven’t been random choices. She has played lots of different characters, yes, but if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that most of them share one particular trait:  they are strong and unwavering women.

Women who have been violated, taken for granted and pushed aside by the patriarchal society as a way to maintain control and power over their bodies.  Women who had been to hell and back but always get back on their feet with their heads up and standing tall. In hindsight, Nicole Kidman’s women are unbreakable.

The unbreakable woman she represents is the irremediable daughter of the patriarchy. She’s strong because her misogynistic upbringing has made her that way; she’s cautious but never stopped fighting for what she believes is right, even when every man around her insists on telling her to do the exact opposite; she’s opinionated because the world wants to silence her constantly and she will retaliate when the situation needs her to do so.

As I said before, her decision to play these characters is not random, she’s been trying to tell something to us with her body of work and the portrayal of these particular traits. In a way, she’s been representing every facet of womanhood since the very beginning.

With that in mind, Kidman’s unbreakable woman portrait can be defined by one of the most important narrative choices that she has ever made during her career, to represent her in two very nuanced ways: The Retaliatory Unbreakable Woman and The Cautious Unbreakable Woman. Two types of women who choose to confront the same problems in different ways. Two women bound by loss and divided by empowerment.

Both these women know that the world they live in is made by men and for men and that they need to fight their own battles because no one is going to support them or save them but themselves. They know they are under constant threat and that the only way to fend for themselves is to face their problems up front and not perpetuating the misogynistic actions they’re surrounded with.

The Cautious Unbreakable Woman is the one that has suffered more of the two of them. She’s the one that has to put up with the awful society standards that have been bestowed upon women, but also the one that is capable of defying them by not letting them affect the way she lives her life.

She’s often portrayed as a rebel woman who is really fed up with the ways that women are supposed to get by on each day. She’s opinionated, very vocal and will always find a way to circle around societal norms in order to get what she wants, especially when it comes to standing for what she believes.

She is Satine in Moulin Rouge (2001), a woman who works at a cabaret as a showgirl — one of the few jobs women could have at the time —that is often sold to the male visitors as nothing more than an object. She is a rebel because, although she lives in a world where women’s bodies are the most requested type of currency and sex is the only way they’re able to connect with someone, she chooses to follow her heart and fall in love with someone, even if that may cost her way of living.

She’s the one that’s constantly defying the societal norms around her by not letting the Duque (Richard Roxburgh) and Harold (Jim Broadbent) control her body and by living her life the way she chooses to until her last breath, in the hands of her love, Christian (Ewan McGregor).

She is Gilly in Practical Magic (1998), a (very witchy) woman comfortable with her body, her autonomy and independence, who is not willing to compromise any of that for anyone, even if that means to stand up to her boyfriend (Goran Visnjic), and to follow up with the lie behind his demise on her sister’s hands.

She is also Anna Murphy in The Killing Of a Sacred Deer (2017), a woman who is capable to stand against someone who’s trying to harm her family and go to the final consequences in order to protect them from a sudden menace embodied on Martin (Barry Keoghan), a teenager who forces her husband (Colin Farrell) to choose to save the life of one of its members: their two children or her, as a personal vendetta.

In the movie, she decides to confront Martin knowing the type of person he is and the danger he represents, but putting her family first. She is also constantly fighting against her husband wishes to push her around by neglecting her opinion and diminishing her.

She is Evelyn in Stoker, (2013) a woman who will stand against Charlie (Matthew Goode), her violent brother-in-law who wants to take her daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) under his wing as a serial killer, even if she’s not that fond of her and doesn’t want to know anything about her.

One of the main traits that stand out from The Cautious Unbreakable Woman is that she may find herself in odd and violent contexts, but she will not act on it. She will stand against a threat, yes, but she will never fire back. The Cautious Unbreakable Woman doesn’t believe that violence solves violence nor it helps to make her point across for that matter, but rather does so by showing fortitude and keeping her head high.

Unlike her, The Retaliatory Unbreakable Woman does believe that the better way to face her problems and the male violence behind them, is by acting on it. She also is a daughter of the patriarchy, but one who is really fed up with dealing with the everyday misogynistic attitudes towards her. She will stand against her perpetrators and she will not endure any type of injustice or act of violence against her.

The best example of this is Grace in Dogville (2003), a woman who will not hesitate to fight back when she feels threatened. Sure, she will live and put up all kinds of abuse and acts of violence against her if that means she can hide from the people who are looking for her, but she will remember it and hold people accountable for their trespasses. Even if it means to kill everyone involved in it, including the man (Paul Bettany) she thought was in love with her but did nothing more than taking advantage of her.

She is Martha Farnsworth in The Beguiled (2017), a woman who will do anything to protect the young girls at her care, even if that means poisoning John McBurney (Colin Farrell), the civil war soldier staying at her school, once he starts making violent threats against her and scaring her protegées.

She is also Celeste Wright in Big Little Lies (2017), a woman who will endure all the violence perpetrated by her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) in order to protect their family, specially her children, but will not hesitate to fight him back when he starts to act violently against her best friends.

With her body of work, not only Nicole Kidman has managed to portray effectively different facets of the male violence that women have to endure every given day, but also, she has given a voice to all the female victims that society has refused to acknowledge along the way.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why y Sweet/Vicious: La voz de las víctimas de la violencia de género

La violencia de género es y sigue siendo un problema que nos sigue afectando a todos y a todas. Tan solo con ver que en 2016 se registraron 29,725 averiguaciones y carpetas de investigación por delitos sexuales en México, esto significa que, en promedio, en ese año, cada 24 horas se denunciaron 81 nuevos casos de violencia sexual, es decir, entre 3 y 4 violaciones o abusos sexuales por hora. Actualmente, siete mujeres son asesinadas al día en México y hace poco, a una chica que murió en un accidente vial se le tachaba de puta por subirse a un carro de un hombre desconocido sin que su esposo la estuviera acompañando.

Como sociedad estamos muy acostumbrados a enterarnos de hechos como estos —o incluso presenciar actos de abuso sexual— sin inmutarnos, ni hacer nada al respecto. Es por eso que es de vital importancia hablar sobre ello, mantenernos informados y no quitar el dedo del renglón. Hay una línea muy delgada que separa a la normalización de la violencia de género de la visibilización de la misma y todos los días, como sociedad, estamos dispuestos a cruzarla.

Como lo he comentado anteriormente, la representación es importante y si hay algo que (la mayoría de) los programas de televisión han logrado hacer estos últimos años es, precisamente, contar historias y narrativas que visibilicen no sólo a problemas como estos, sino la razón detrás de ellos. A final de cuentas, es siempre el contexto el que nos delimita y posiciona frente a lo que buscamos entender.

Shows como Big Little Lies , 13 Reasons Why Sweet/Vicious son producto y resultado directo de la cultura de la violencia de género que es tan próspera en nuestra sociedad actual. En ellas, se representan a las relaciones de poder unilaterales como aquella causa inherente de la violencia de género gracias a una variedad de historias protagonizadas por mujeres que son violentadas, sometidas a situaciones de abuso y llevadas al límite.

Las relaciones de poder, y la enorme influencia que puede tener una persona sobre la voluntad de otra, es la idea central que rige las historias y los arcos principales de las mismas. Gracias a la representación tan detallada del proceso complicado que dos personas atraviesan para formar una relación de poder, y el intercambio simbólico que esto conlleva, se logra la visibilización de un problema normalizado.

Lo que en cualquier otro tipo de serie pudo haber sido aprovechado como un momento perfecto para hacer uso del shock value, en estos programas de televisión es tratado a fondo, representando con suma claridad una variedad de temáticas que muy pocas series se han atrevido a tocar, como las consecuencias del abuso sexual, las razones detrás del acoso, los alcances de la sociedad misógina y las repercusiones de la normalización de la violencia de género.

En Big Little Lies, Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) vive una relación de abuso con su esposo Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), donde la pasión que sienten el uno por el otro los mantiene unidos pero, al mismo tiempo, es siempre el origen de un maltrato físico y emocional que él le ocasiona a ella. La serie no toma reparo en mostrar, a lo largo de sus ocho capítulos, los actos violentos por los que ella tiene que pasar. Con cada grito y cada golpe, Celeste se asegura así misma que Perry no le inflige dolor a propósito, que es algo que él no puede controlar y que ella está ahí para apoyarlo. Ella sabe que vive en una relación de abuso y que, por el bien de sus hijos, debería alejarse de su esposo, sin embargo, no puede olvidar todo lo que su esposo significa para ella.

En el mismo programa aparece Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), una chica que decide mudarse de ciudad para comenzar de nuevo y, de paso, buscar al hombre desconocido que la violó unos años atrás y que también es padre de su hijo. A lo largo de los 8 capítulos podemos ver, a través de sus ojos, lo que es vivir después de haber sobrevivido a un acto de violencia de género. Jane tiene pesadillas y se encuentra en un estado de pánico constante a consecuencia de ello. La vida de Jane ya no es de ella después de aquel acto violento.

Lo que estos shows nos ayudan a entender es que los casos de abuso sexual no son situaciones ni momentos aislados que suceden de la nada; ni mucho menos son causados por la víctima. Al contrario, se trata más bien de la culminación de una cadena de sucesos agresivos, infligidos por una persona o grupos de personas, que son normalizados con naturaleza por una sociedad donde la violencia de género es parte del día a día.

Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) es una adolescente que tiene que soportar las acciones escabrosas detrás de la cultura misógina en la que vive en 13 Reasons Why. Este programa de Netflix aprovecha los beneficios del binge-watching, que su plataforma facilita, para representar con lujo de detalle los procesos involucrados en la cultura normalizada de la violencia de género. Desde su perspectiva podemos entender cómo las mujeres son cosificadas desde la adolescencia y, por ello, se convierten instantáneamente en un objetivo fácil para aquellos que deciden que, por el simple hecho de ser mujeres, sus cuerpos le pertenecen a los hombres y tienen el derecho de hacer con ellos lo que quieran. Hannah es violada días después de que le sucede lo mismo a su mejor amiga Jessica, por su compañero de clases con el pretexto de que ellas nunca se negaron.

Jules Thomas (Eliza Bennett), al igual que Celeste, Hannah, Jessica y Jane, es una sobreviviente de un abuso sexual perpetrado por el novio de su mejor amiga mientras ella estaba inconsciente en Sweet/Vicious. El giro de esta serie radica en el posicionamiento de Jules como una vigilante que busca venganza al golpear a hombres acusados de violencia sexual. El show no solo se encarga de darle voz a una víctima, sino que también le da agencia y autonomía al proporcionarle los medios para pelear en contra de la misma sociedad que permitió a su agresor aprovecharse de ella.

La existencia de estas series importa mucho. Estos son programas que colocan a las víctimas de abuso sexual como personas con voz, agencia y autonomía, son shows que no se detienen a la hora de confrontar al espectador con escenas de agresión sexual y que no solo ayudan a entender los alcances que tiene la violencia de género en nuestro día a día, sino que también nos permiten identificarlos en nosotros mismos y en los demás.