October 6, 2008

Women's Studies assignment: Boxing Helena

For my Women's Studies class, our first major project will be to watch a film! Any film we like, she says. The thing is, we have to study women's roles in film so whatever film we choose, we watch it through a feminist lens in so many words.

For me, I was a little dismayed that I couldn't call upon my random list of Obscure Movies to give me a good woman's role--then, not even a negative role. How androcentric my movie list is, I thought. Wow. I could think of plenty of movies but not many with a significant female role--one that I could easily dissect and make a paper on anyway.

So I gave it some thought and with my burgeoning Clive Barker re-obsession, I said "Hey, Hellraiser is pretty decent and I could write a role on the two main female characters!"

Through fate and weird circumstance, I couldn't get hold of a copy of Hellraiser but I found something else--a little movie I'd seen long ago called Boxing Helena.

Ah, a cult movie after my own heart, directed by Jennifer Lynch, the daughter of the Master of Someone's Reality, David Lynch. Yes, Miss Lynch tried her hand at surreal film and it does ring of a knock-off of a Lynch film. If you've ever heard of this movie it was probably in a negative sense, as in many people--and I mean movie goers, critics, the box office--felt the movie sucked aloud.

And I saw it a couple of years ago and I say nay! it doth not suck aloud; but...silently. See, the movie is about a miserable creep of a doctor obsessed with a miserable bitch of a model. It's a love story that really gets rolling when the lovely model, the titular Helena, is run over by a truck (randomly, one day) and the doctor Nick winds up amputating her leg.

From here Nick gets a little...uh, crazy and takes off her other leg. Then both her arms. Then shit happens. I mean if you click the Wikipedia link and you're dismayed by the ending spoiler, believe me, that summary gives nothing away. You really have to experience the sheer creepiness for yourself.

So why choose this film? For one thing, I actually kinda liked the film. It's not the best damn thing ever but its tolerable. Also, Helena's role is an interesting one--she starts off as the stereotypical bossy bitch. She's beautiful and she knows it and she doesn't have the time of day, night or afternoon for poor Nick until she gets humbled by having no limbs and relying on him for everything.

I also like the theme of objectification in the film. Nick goes screwy and takes it too far with the cutting of the limbs and that interests me--it connects with how I feel about men objectifying women. Rendering the beautiful woman powerless so she can't control you anymore, and she's totally yours. It's wonderfully symbolic I think.

And I'm putting all this in my paper. Yep. I feel an A!

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