Three Things: 001
So, this is a new little feature that I’m hoping will be fun. And if it sucks, let me know and we’ll try something else!
I’ve been looking for a way to make talking about “other stuff” a little more contained by focusing on just a few things (connected in some way) instead of ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, which is sometimes what it feels like when I come in here to talk about stuff. This first post — about my current three favorite films — was mostly written and then last week with Roe v Wade happened and I couldn’t believe how relevant the piece already was. Sorta blew me away actually. But that was foolish of me and you’ll quickly see why.
Anyway, I made a few tweaks to be more specifically reflective of things going on in US Politics and… here we are. Obviously, beware of spoilers. And scroll to the very bottom for some suggestions on how to get involved in the fight to protect Roe v Wade and thus protect half the population of the world and their rights to their own bodies.
So today we’re talking about my current three favorite films — and how they seem incredibly different on the surface, but are in actuality all films very much about women and in fact address similar themes and ideas, just in wildly different ways.
All three films are complex pieces of fiction that are about A LOT of things but as I was thinking about everything that was going on this week with Roe v. Wade, I realized that one of the things that all three of these films are about is women’s bodily autonomy.
So here are the three films:
So, we’ll put a pin in ARRIVAL for now, since the other two have a much more obvious ties to both each other and to our current political issues (ironic since they’re the ones NOT set “now-ish” like ARRIVAL).
And yeah, I find it pretty disturbing how many similarities SENSE & SENSIBILITY and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD share considering one is set around 1790 and the other around 2050.
FURY ROAD is about a whole lot of things, but at its core it’s truly a feminist story about women trying to take control of their own bodies and thus lives. Because if you’re not in control of your body, you’re not in control of your life. It finds our heroes quite literally escaping a disgusting futuristic authoritarian patriarchal regime because they’ve been forced into being broodmares (they are referred to in the film as “The Five Wives”). One of them is extremely pregnant. Another is just barely pregnant.
I love every inch of FURY ROAD. I think it’s a masterpiece. And when I was watching it for the first time — even though I’m very familiar with the MAD MAX world generally — I didn’t know the specifics of this plot. Going in, you know it’s a very fucked world they’re living in, as all MAD MAX movies show, but you haven’t yet seen the details.
And it’s the same for Max. He knows his world is fucked, but when Max (and the viewer) sees the “five wives” for the first time… and those futuristic and yet still medieval chastity belts… it’s a total gut punch. And yet as a woman watching it, the second I saw those brides I inhaled deeply and thought “Of course. Of course this is what it’s about. This is what it’s always about, since time immemorial.”
Yes. This is what it’s always about. Women being traded like chattel. Valued and/or feared (and these are often the same fucking thing) for their beauty, their youth, their reproductive capabilities. Somehow at some point the ability to grow life in our bodies marked us as “less than” — and it’s just never. fucking. gone. away.
The fact that SENSE & SENSIBILITY, a period piece focused on a family of young women after the death of their beloved father, is ALSO a story of desperate young women trying only to survive in a patriarchy where all the rules are set against them is wild to me. In FURY ROAD they have been kidnapped and imprisoned and they make their escape hoping for a better world. In SENSE & SENSIBILITY the death of their father has left them completely vulnerable — and with only their youth, beauty, and reproductive capabilities to offer in trade to men. Their survival depends on their skills at auctioning themselves off to their best option.
[It should also be noted that though these women in Sense & Sensibility are left “destitute” due to the laws at the time when their father dies — even “destitute” these are white women that have at least two servants in their home once they fall to their lowest station — so if life is this bad for them, just imagine what it must have been for women who are born into even less advantageous circumstances].
SENSE & SENSIBILITY starts in misery and sorrow, and is full of minor tragedies, but has a happy ending — one full of promise. You feel comforted when it ends because you know that The Dashwoods — who are genuinely beautiful souls — are protected from these particular problems from here on out. They have managed to marry wealthy and by some miracle, into love, and they are now protected. But the truth is that, though protected, they still live in a miserable fucking world where in 260 years men will STILL be trying to control women’s bodies by any means necessary. Even though FURY ROAD is, on its surface, much darker than SENSE & SENSIBILITY, for me, it’s the far more optimistic film, because not only do most of our women secure their freedom, but they actually take over the system that was hunting/raping/imprisoning them — and we’re allowed to hope that they will make things better — that they can inact real change.
SENSE & SENSIBILITY & FURY ROAD, set 260 years apart and still covering the same ground. And every woman reading this is nodding her head going “of course it does.”
Because we have been here before. Hell, we’ve never LEFT.
Which brings us to ARRIVAL.
ARRIVAL is very much NOT about this. It’s mostly about other very different and important things. I would say most of all it’s about communication — the importance of it, and how it can save us. It focuses on a linguist (a language and communications expert and also a professor), Louise (Amy Adams) being brought in to try to communicate with mysterious aliens that arrive suddenly on Earth. Part of that narrative is that the “weapon” the aliens are offering Earth is simply their language. Because when you learn their language — really learn it — it allows you to perceive time differently. The aliens perceive time non-lineraly and so when you begin to think like they do — you also can begin to perceive time non-lineraly — i.e. you can see into the future.
As a result of her skills and dedication, Louise DOES learn their language and as a result she begins to see into her future. The future appears to her in flashforwards from her life to come — mostly as relates to a child. Her future child. And through these flashes she learns that her future child will die at a young age of a very rare and deadly disease with no cure.
The power and grief of these flashforwards — once you understand what they are is… quite frankly, shocking. As soon as she understands what exactly this is that’s happening to her, we see her wrestle with a lot of things, including what to do about this potential child.
Should she make this leap and have this child… even knowing what she knows? Should she sign up for all that beauty and laughter and joy… even though she knows it will be followed by unbelievable heartache and pain? The kind of loss that never heals.
And what the hell does any of that have to with abortion?
Quite simply, because it’s HER choice whether to have this child or not. She is the only one qualified to know if this is the right thing for her or not. And while ARRIVAL is full of sci-fi coolness that most of us don’t have to (or get to) deal with, we’re still, like Louise, the only ones qualified to determine if something is the right thing for us or not. It shouldn’t be up to a bunch of men in a room somewhere that don’t know us, don’t know our lives, don’t know our medical history, or the amount of money in our bank account. That don’t know how many children we already do or don’t have, or why. They can’t possibly know the answers to those things. And they shouldn’t have to, because they should NOT BE THE ONES MAKING THE DECISION.
If we aren’t in control of our own bodies, then we aren’t in control of our own lives.
And we shouldn’t have to be able to fucking SEE INTO THE GODDAMN FUTURE to be trusted with that choice.
If you want to help half the population of the world, if you want to help them have control of their bodies and thus their lives, and be equal citizens alongside you, below are some recommended places to donate. If you are able-bodied enough to get out there and peaceful protest, please do it. If not, consider calling local representatives, especially if you’re in a conservative area where you know you and your neighbors will be hit hardest and where your reps need to hear how you feel about these issues.
The Cut did a terrific piece that includes a round up — state by state — of ways to help, which is incredibly important, because like everything in this country, poor people and people of color are historically far more vulnerable to these issues and those in conservative states have it the worst.
Roxane Gay is always worth reading, but especially on issues like this.
This doc, shared in Gay’s newsletter is also incredibly helpful.
This piece by Jessica Valenti about her own abortion is great.
Okay. I have to get back to work on COMICS. But thank you for reading. I promise not all future “THREE THINGS” posts will also be the ravings of a very angry woman. But some of them probably will be… because I am indeed angry.
Love you guys. Take care of yourselves and each other. Be kind when possible. <3
I always appreciate reading your posts- but I do tend to realllllllly enjoy posts like this. We share a lot of common views, so that’s pretty baller- but also you share extremely similar views with my wife, so I get to read the posts twice because I’ll send them her way so she can read and often times audibly drop a “fuck yeah, she’s right” comment.
So I know stuff still sucks... and somehow gets worse... but there’s more and more of us every day getting angry. Hopefully that leads to something good.
Ugh, I'm so stressed and angry about the state of the world and this attack on women's rights. The primary election here was extremely discouraging too. But we just have to keep fighting.
It seems like for all our existence, women have been treated as nothing more than a commodity. Not individual whole people with our own rights.
I do love Fury Road too! Furiosa is a force to be reckoned with and she totally steals the entire show even from Mad Max. I also love how the strength of these women is most found in the way they work together.
I seriously need to watch Arrival. I've weirdly never been one for many of the older time period movies ... probably because being a woman in them so often sucks!