(I actually started this post as a comment to an article over on Geeks Are Sexy about the new “Jem and the Holograms” trailer/movie. It started getting steamy, so I decided to take it over here.)
I’m pretty sure if you watched the trailer for this 2015 swill, you have the WHOLE plot and really have no further need to subject yourself to the full-length travesty.
Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m not personally annoyed by the complete lack of mystery or science fiction that made the original a little bit “out of the box” for the 80s – it was right up there with “She-Ra” (and before that “He-Man”) as far as “girl power” was concerned, a cultural inching forward, centimeter by centimeter towards non-damsel female characters.
The biggest cultural sin this bloody stupid waste of digital space is committing is undermining girl’s autonomy. At first, I thought it was almost a “Runaways” fan-fiction, where no one is on drugs and everyone gets to be friends again at the end, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s the EXACT SAME PROBLEM we see in almost every single girl-centric story churned out of Hollyweird: GIRLS HAVE NO POWER IN THEIR OWN AUTONOMY, THEY REQUIRE INTERVENTION FROM OUTSIDE SOURCES IN ORDER TO SUCCEED.
And just to be clear, just in case you think that sounds a little dodgy, welcome to the pervasive message for all females in our western culture – we absolutely must not under any circumstances trust our own decisions, and anything amazing that happens to us will only happen because someone else ACTS AGAINST OUR EXPLICIT CONSENT.
Oh crap. I used the C word.
It’s actually been a topic on my mind for a while. We talk about “rape culture” as though it’s about sex, but really, it’s about gender. (In this context, I’m using “sex” to refer to acts and “gender” to refer to expressed biological or cultural roles.) Yes, it is expressed as a lack of proper respect shown by males towards females’ boundaries and desires in a sexual fashion, but the culture of it goes much, much further.
Everything from the wage gap to the abortion debate to the class war is based in this rape culture. It’s about power over each other, and though it is most especially about men overpowering women, that is not its exclusive expression.
Back to this revolting rejection of decent story, to recap the already simplistic plot: a girl (who happens to have the same name as the original Jem) is a talented musician and singer who doesn’t want to be in the spotlight because SHY. She secretly records herself in disguise and her cousin? uploads it to the internets. AND FAME ENSUES IMMEDIATELY!!!
BUT WAIT!! DRAMA!!
Because SHE’S clearly the only “talented” one, so she gets manipulated and exploited, and then her band mates get all bitchy and mean because she does things without them, and “that’s not what a family does”, and then, of course, she gets back together with them because PLOT…
And the underlying message is not to make good choices for yourself but rather to pick the right person to make choices FOR YOU.
I have to give the point that pretty much every single movie anywhere generally has to start with an improbable premise – that’s what makes an interesting story. “I did not see that coming!” The problem with this particular brand of feces (along with all the OTHER properties aimed specifically at young pre- and teen girls) is that there is no correlation between hard work and success, and definitely no correlation between autonomy and success. Success just magically happens because PLOT, leading to an entire generation of people who have no idea how that sort of thing really works.
Okay, if that makes for an interesting backdrop sometimes, fine, but let’s compare it against another “music gone wild to the top” film, That Thing You Do. Note: it was not pointed at young girls, it was pointed at people. How does the band get success? Their manager busts his ass getting the single into the right hands, and then the next manager works hard to keep them all together as a group despite themselves. I’m trying to think of ANY girl stories that don’t involve backstabbing and cattiness, and I’m drawing a blank.
So, to touch on the consent thing again, the whole point is that when the main character (and presented role model) is incapable of making her own positive decisions, the little girls that watch that main character start to doubt their own ability to make decisions, because if she fucked it up, what the hell chance does this kid have?!
THIS is why we need a Wonder Woman movie (though probably one of the more recent incarnations and not the original bondage fantasies). THIS is why Black Widow needs her own feature. THIS is why we need more female directors, writers, producers, and executives in Hollywood (and every other film-producing location). It’s painfully obvious that Big Stupidhead Boys are writing the narrative for us.
Rape culture ends when women start writing their own narrative. That’s going to take a while, especially since BSBs are afraid that we’ll get the taste for revenge. In the meantime, all we can really do is try to encourage a conversation around this type of crap or else boycott the hell out of it so that no one is financially motivated to make them anymore.
Do the world a favor: Take your daughters to see “Age of Ultron” or maybe “Mad Max”. Getting used to the bloodshed is better than getting used to being marginalized and dependent.