Archivo de la etiqueta: Man

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.

 

 

 

Ron Swanson and the politics of manliness.

I’m pretty sure that one thing we all can agree on right now is that television nowadays is the perfect platform to depict new, and very different, ways of represent people. TV shows now, more than ever, excel at creating true characters with an incredible capacity to be a voice of certain groups of individuals. Now we can see ourselves reflected in the Mauras, the Hannahs, the Leslie Knopes, the Teds, the Barry Allens, even in the Frank Underwoods, all in the interest of fairness and  representation.

Manliness and masculinity certainly have changed too along the years and many manly characters tropes have evolved in pro of a more approachable and well-suited representation that would suit better with today’s gender narratives.

Long gone are the dated representations of the manly man and already worned out Macho trope, defined only by his lack of sensibility, his obsesion with the hero complex and his violent attitudes towards women. Now, a man can be manly whilst recongnizing his own feelings and respecting women, not just because they are women, but because they’re persons too.

I want to invite you to close your eyes and think of an actual manly character that is relevant to his show’s story, and actually share the above featuress. If Ron Swanson went through your mind, then you’re probably right. He is the perfect example of this interesting representation.

If you have lived under a rock and don’t know who he is and what does Parks and Recreation means, let me explain it to you. The show revolves around Leslie Knope, the bubbly and optimistic Deputy of the Parks And Recreation Department of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Ron Swanson, on the other hand, is her boss and director of the same department.

Ron is, by any means, a manly character as he adheres to many stereotypically masculine treats. He constantly claims that he has only cried twice in his life, he loves to fish, hunt, camp and to do wood working, he also is very stoic as he stands on a particular point of view on not sharing any kind of feelings to and with anyone.

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Ann & Chris" Episode 613 -- Pictured: Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

If this were any other TV show, Ron’s character could  have easily fallen under the Macho trope, but this is Parks And Recreation, a show that aims to tell stories that are more concerned with depiction, representation and character growth than reproducing stereotypical gender roles. To Ron, manliness is not a synonym of violence towards women.

Ron’s character depiction in fact suggests something very real and relatable, that manliness is actually different for everybody as there is not just one way to be a man, but a handful of features, characteristics and ways to act that can be shaped and molded for each individual.

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He has his own way to understand manliness, he does not cry nor does he shares his feelings, but he doesn’t feel threatened by anyone, specially not by women. He is actually able to recognize the strong influence women have had in his life and the way they helped him to become the man he is now, as he beautifully explains on this quote from season 4:

“I don’t consider my self an anything ’ist, but my life has been shaped by powerful women. My father once told my mother woman was made form the rib of Adam and my mom broke his jaw.

That’s what I think Parks and Recreation is all about, the perfect balance between the depiction of true and rounded characters and their realtionships with each other. Ron’s abilty to aknowledge the strong relationships he has mantained with women all his life it’s just one of many examples of this very idea.

He had a strong mother figure to loook up to, two empowered and determined ex-wives to share his life with, one stubborn and passionate asistant to learn from and an optimist protegee as Leslie Knope to share a friendship with.

I found really refreshing when a TV show I like allows itself to have an incredible pairing, conformed by a man and a woman, that shares a profound level of respect, admiration and caring  between each other like the one Ron and Leslie have.

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They are the ideal depiction of a friendship based on respect, where their genders doesn’t define neither themselves nor their roles within their relationship. He doesn’t need to explain to her how to act and be like a woman in politics the same way she does not tries to change who he is.

If Parks And Recreation has taught us anything is that friendship can trascend gender roles, that stereotypical roles does not define people and that a manly man can, and should, break the mold society is trying to put him into.