The Great Feminist Cinema that is The Wolverine
“Feminist cultural criticism has ruined me,” I sighed to my boyfriend yesterday. He had just excitedly shown me the new trailer for Prisoners, the Jake Gylenhaal/Hugh Jackman/Terrence Howard/Paul Dano film:
It looks like it could be a great movie. I don’t know. But all I could think while watching the trailer was, “MEN! Men jumping! Fighting! Shooting! Being police officers! Being suspects! Woman crying. Girls getting kidnapped. MEN GETTING SHIT DONE!” It’s a Story About Men, just like pretty much every big Hollywood movie, despite the fact that women are pretty much evenly distributed all over the world with men.
That’s why we have ideas like the Bechdel Test, which asks you to consider whether a film features at least two named female characters who talk to one another about any topic other than a man. Last week I saw Pacific Rim, after which I mentioned to my boyfriend that the film failed the test hard enough to have to consider applying to a safety school. At the same time, I acknowledged that the sole female character in the film was great: Mako Mori, an Asian woman who had her own story arc and who was not sexualized at all, which is astonishing considering that she forms a deep bond with the male lead.
I’m not the only one to take note of this. In fact, feminists have been discussing the importance of having a woman – particularly a woman who isn’t white – having a lead, stereotype-defying role in a blockbuster film. Some are suggesting a Mako Mori test to accompany the Bechdel test when examining a film:
The Mako Mori test is passed if the movie has: a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.
Last night, we finally went to see The Wolverine, also starring Hugh Jackman. I was prepared to love the movie, because I love and will always love the character of Wolverine, but I was prepared to love it in spite of the fact that it was probably going to be a shallow, testosterone-fueled Story About Men. Instead, it was so great in its portrayal of women that I’m surprised it’s not mentioned in the posts I link to above that love Pacific Rim so much because of Mako Mori.
Here’s a trailer:
The Wolverine has a large cast of Japanese actors, and most notably features two Japanese female characters who:
1. Have names (Mariko and Yukio)
2. Are best friends
3. Talk about something other than a man
4. Have their own narrative arcs (mostly Mariko)
1. Kick ass
2. Save themselves and others
3. Don’t get into a jealous fight over bedding the leading man
Plus, The Wolverine’s villain is (slight spoiler here) The Viper, a woman who is a chemist who uses her evil venom power to debilitate a dude on the street who offers her money for sex and who at one point implies she’s a lesbian.
The movie isn’t perfect by any stretch, and since this is also a science and skepticism blog I feel it necessary to point out that the only good science in The Wolverine is the fact that the Earth continues its daily rotation just like in real life.
But when it comes to the characters, my only complaint about the movie is that they actually made Logan too stupid. Fans of the comics know that he lived in Japan long enough to speak fluent Japanese and learn the customs. In this movie he doesn’t speak a word of Japanese and comes across as a bit of a dunce considering he’s 100 years old or so.
Anyway, my title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I really do think it was a fun movie with an overall positive portrayal of women, and I Can. Not. Wait. for the next X-Men movie, based on Days of Future Past.
Speaking of nerding out over Wolverine, I’ll be at DragonCon in a few weeks and I will cosplay as Wolverine one of the days. I’ll also be doing my regular Quiz-o-Tron Friday night at 11pm in the Skeptrack room. Hope to see you there!