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Black (Widow) and (Snow) White - The Mad Schemes of Dr. Tectonic [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Black (Widow) and (Snow) White [Jun. 13th, 2012|10:41 pm]
I had plans to go see Snow White and the Huntsman (aka "SWATH") on Friday, when Jerry was off seeing Prometheus with Pyro & company (which I think I'm interested in seeing, but they were seeing it in 3-D and I've decided that I don't want to see movies in 3-D anymore unless it's integral to their schtick). But I stayed a little late at work and ran out of cope, so I stayed home and chopped vegetables instead.

So I decided to go Sunday afternoon instead, and through conversational happenstance, ended up going not just with Jerry, but also Chris & Todd and with Rosemary. So that was nice! (Afterwards Chris & Todd took us to Smashburger for belated birthday celebration. Thanks, guys!)

Anyway, the movie: I'd heard that the plot and acting were kinda enh, but the visuals were gorgeous, so I went in expecting that and was not disappointed. It is indeed a very pretty movie, and there's a fair bit of storytelling done with just visuals. (And the movie doesn't spoonfeed you every last detail, which I always appreciate.) The pacing for all that gorgeousness is kinda slow. Charlize Theron chews the scenery like nobody's business, while Kristen Stewart's acting range runs from A to B. She does have more than one expression; I believe I counted three by the end of the movie. If they'd cast a kind of plain-looking actress with charisma and presence as the lead, I think it could have been amazing.

But I liked how feminist this retelling was. The romance is massively downplayed; there's some relationship-building between Snow and the Huntsman, but that's not the point of the story; it's about an heir taking back the throne from the usurper, and it so happens that both of them are women. Prince Charming is, at best, an irrelevancy. And the climax of the film is a fight between Snow and Ravenna (the evil queen), where Snow White is wearing completely standard armor and all of the men in the story are stuck in the room outside, taking no part whatsoever. Which is pretty nifty.

They even came thisclose to having really interesting commentary on power based on looks and glamour vs power that comes from who you are, i.e, charisma/personality. (Sadly, that was undercut by casting Kristen Stewart, who is pretty but incredibly bland, as the lead.)

Now, there are plenty of ways in which the movie is also kinda problematic, but the big picture view is that they took a story about an incredibly passive girl and made it into a story about a young woman who does things. It may not be great, but it is better. And that was refreshing.

Speaking of refreshing and feminist, remember how I was talking about how Black Widow is the most central character in The Avengers and not just walking fan service and how that was really nice? I read a VERY interesting pair of blog posts about how not everyone sees it that way, and why that might be happening, that I recommend to you:

The Superhero Men Don't See: Evidence
Scarlett Johansson in a Gorilla Suit: The Superhero Mundanes Don't See

[User Picture]From: shirtlifterbear
2012-06-14 01:48 pm (UTC)
Your post has made me realize that SWATH passes the Bechdel rule!

In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:

It includes at least two women,
who have at least one conversation,
about something other than a man or men.

!Viva la revolucion!
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2012-06-14 04:36 pm (UTC)
And quite early on, too! Although let's not forget that the Bechdel test is a pretty low bar...
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[User Picture]From: quirkstreet
2012-06-14 08:39 pm (UTC)
I guess Prometheus sort of passes, too. I'm pretty sure Charlize Theron's character and Noomi Rapace's talk about a bunch of stuff, only some of which is 'men'.
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[User Picture]From: putzmeisterbear
2012-06-14 04:02 pm (UTC)
My favorite part of SWATH (I love calling it that) was the dwarves. But then I'm a big Bob Hoskins fan and Nick Frost was fun too.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2012-06-14 04:34 pm (UTC)
They did the dwarves quite well! I liked the fact that it wasn't particularly clear whether they were fantasy dwarves or just, y'know, short guys who are miners.

I just wish they'd gone for more straight-up heroic in the castle invasion scenes rather than attempting to be comic; it felt really tonally incongruous to me.
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[User Picture]From: putzmeisterbear
2012-06-14 05:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and I could have done without the sewer humor.
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[User Picture]From: kev_bot
2012-06-14 04:20 pm (UTC)
I talked to a guy recently who loved The Avengers, and I was just about to say how I thought it was cool that Black Widow was kind of the star of the whole movie when he said, "Except for Black Widow. I mean, she was OKAY, but she's NOT an Avenger." And then he started laughing about that gun thing she does when the camera spins around.

I was shocked.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2012-06-14 04:29 pm (UTC)
Ugh. Yeah, she only has a pistol -- and yet, she calls a lot of the tactics, she's hijacks a Chitauri flyer (without any backup flying ability if she falls), and she's the only one who thinks "hey, we really need to close the damn gate instead of just fighting unending waves of infantry"! If anything, her lack of superpowers makes her MORE awesome.

Pay attention to what's actually on the screen, people!
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[User Picture]From: k8cre8
2012-06-15 03:09 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I really like your links, I'd seen a similar comparison a few weeks back which actually documented the screen time given to each character, (oh hey, I found it):


Black Widow is actually, third, just behind Capt. (who actually squeaked past Tony by a hair, or 41 seconds.)

Yeah, I mean, *clearly* she's *awesome* and, also, the core of the movie.
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[User Picture]From: quirkstreet
2012-06-14 08:38 pm (UTC)
[insert massive eye roll]

"She's not an Avenger ..." LOL, lots of historic continuity disproves that.
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[User Picture]From: goddessdster
2012-06-14 07:56 pm (UTC)
I really like SWATH for most of the reasons you mentioned. It was gorgeous; the "evil queen" schtick was given nuance and reason and it wasn't just about some powerful woman who needs to be destroyed (lookin' at you, CS Lewis); the romance was subtle and off the books, in so far as it wasn't the pretty pretty prince who wins SW's heart, but the rough and broken warrior.

Of course there were many faults, but as a lifelong reader and lover of fairy tales, I have always had to look behind the curtain, so to speak, to find the messages that are relevant to me as a girl and woman in these stories. Is the heroine usually rescued by a man and spirited off for a prefect marriage? Yes. But these are also young women thrown into untenable circumstances who use their wits, courage, intelligence, and decency to survive and thrive. I have always loved that.

I have many thoughts about Black Widow, and wanted to come back and revise one of m comments on an earlier post of yours after seeing the film the second time. Because she is easily the most courageous character in that whole movie.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2012-06-15 05:36 am (UTC)
Yes to all of this!
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