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Post by matthewscott8 » February 26th, 2020, 4:23 pm

I have been wondering if this is a thing, feministsploitation. So to define a term, it's basically a movie that's using the trappings of feminism but is really just an exploitation movie.

I watched Anna (2019 - Luc Besson) the other day. So Anna is a movie about a tall statuesque blonde who is a secret agent who kicks a lot of asses, and puts a lot of caps in asses. But the point is that the movie is meant to be about female empowerment, and her escaping the system and the control of men. She actually at one point gives the Russian Doll speech, which if you haven't heard it is one where you talk about yourself, as a mother, or a girlfriend, or a sister, or a sex object, but you've never had the freedom to get to the doll at the core, which is who you really are outside of the context of men. I don't know where that speech originates, I've heard it before but google isn't helping given there was a tv series called Russian Doll.

However besides all the feminist trappings which update a familiar story, the appeal of the movie never really departs from the girl with a gun appeal. And it's overtly exploitative of the lead actress Sasha Luss, whose underwear we see quite a lot of. I'm sure she got paid a lot of money, and couldn't care less, but this is no step in the direction of a feminist cinema. You could say it passes the Bechdel test, but only because she has a lesbian relationship that's very much eye candy to the male gaze.

Besson's obsession with statuesque blondes is the key flavour and this is no advance on his Angel A from 2005.

Then I started to think of Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw, which I saw on the same day. Both movies feature physically slight women suplexing men twice their size. Is that a feminist act, or is it just another male fantasy. Is the lie of suggesting hand to hand combat parity between men and women helping the feminist cause.

Does a movie have to be very knowingly exploiting feminist motifs to be feministsploitation? Would others reading this accept that feministsploitation is now "a thing".

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Post by Obgeoff » February 26th, 2020, 4:50 pm

Mad Max Fury Road and Sucker Punch are two that come to mind that fit the bill.

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Post by blocho » February 26th, 2020, 5:44 pm

matthewscott8 wrote:
February 26th, 2020, 4:23 pm
I have been wondering if this is a thing, feministsploitation. So to define a term, it's basically a movie that's using the trappings of feminism but is really just an exploitation movie.
It is definitely a thing. The razor's edge between empowerment and exploitation is very thin.

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Post by maxwelldeux » February 27th, 2020, 1:24 am

My wife has a masters degree in Women's and Gender Studies, so we've talked about this at length, and when we watch movies together, they often get interpreted through this lens. So I'm restricting myself to a short response, so I don't spend several hours writing...

Yes. It's a thing. I don't know where the line is, but "feministsploitation" (I dig the term, BTW) is certainly real. Would Kill Bill (v1, mostly) fall into this? Probably. Would Charlie's Angels (the Drew Barrymore edition)? Probably. Are the producers of these films exploiting "feminism" to make a quick buck? Certainly.

But is it a bad thing? I'm not sure it is - yes, we as a culture need to move past these sorts of films, but representation matters. Having actresses on screen in starring roles as the lead of a film and as more than just a sexual object is a good thing - it helps raise awareness that many of the limitations are culturally constructed, it gets them work, etc. The feminism may be lip service, but at least they have the opportunity to say it. It's why I tend to view the Blaxploitation genre positively, because it provided work to Black actors, got them visibility that could translate to other parts, and it gave them an opportunity to start telling their stories and messages.

Related, I think a great example of this from the stand-up comedy world is Iliza Shlesinger. Feminist words and phrases, but not actually walking the walk.

And on the exact opposite note to this topic, I want to give a shout-out to Chatterbox! (1977), which is a totally exploitive film that managed to sneak in a remarkably feminist message. A movie about a woman with a talking vagina with tons of nudity where her central purpose was to break out of the control of men who were exploiting her "ability" and body.

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Post by mightysparks » February 27th, 2020, 1:43 am

I agree a lot with max. It really depends on the film and context for me. Skinny action girls are kind of offensively stupid and not even slightly empowering; I was impressed that they cast the fighter lady in The Mandalorian, for example (even if she was a terrible actress); she had muscle and bulk and they didn’t make her overly masculine or feminine or victimized etc. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than conventionally attractive blonde girl who is 10kg underweight.

But at the same time most of the films aren’t subtle because it’s still an issue people still aren’t up to date with (like max says, the proper representation isn’t really there yet, and you also see it a lot in LGBT films, especially the older ones).

I’m usually instantly disinterested in a film when it has a female lead for these reasons, either it’s going to be completely sexist and dressed up as female empowerment, or it’s going to be ridiculously in your face. But I think they are getting better and I’m more and more drawn to films about or lead by women.
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