*This review does not contain spoilers.*
The recently released, Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, is visually stunning with amazing cinematography that gives audience members the sense of being out there in space, detached from earth.
Detachment is a key theme of the film (“Detached” is also the title of the teaser trailer released last summer). Related to this, the film has many visual images that evoke birth and gestation. Though pulsing with umbilical cord imagery, it is far from a typical exploration of the meaning of life, birth, and death — and particularly because it places a woman, Dr Ryan Stone (played by Sandar Bullock) front and center – and not AS a woman, but as a human.
Though the movie is about a shuttle mission, the matter of extreme importance at its center has nothing to do with space travel, the vastness of space, nor the technological wizardry that makes space travel come alive for the audience – no, the matter of great importance at the center of the film is human survival. The film, as noted in this review, “gives a visceral charge to the metaphorical sense of being lost and alone in the universe”
Bullock captures this existential exploration of life with not only great dignity, but in a way that captivates the audience, pulling them to the edge of their seats, tugging at their emotions, and amping their adrenaline.
Why is this important for feminists?
Because all too often movies that make audiences hearts’ race or adrenaline rush feature only male leads and incorporate violent packed action.
Gravity is an important film as it proves that YES, a woman can anchor an action-packed blockbuster, and that NO, “action-packed” does not have to include violence, superheroes, weapons, and/or huge death tolls.
Bullock is stupendous in the role. So good, in fact, that I have already added Speed, The Blind Side, The Proposal, Miss Congeniality, The Heat, and yes, even All About Steve, to my “watch again” list. Thankfully, Alfonso Cuaron had the ovaries to defend his choice of casting a female lead. Which brings me to another matter of grave importance…
The fact that such a defense is necessary. As this Women and Hollywood post notes, “We hear lots of anecdotal remarks from female directors about the scripts they pitch with female leads and how they are asked to change the gender, but hearing this come from an A-List director is pretty rare.” As the post later queries, “….If Cuaron is getting shit for writing a woman, imagine what the rest of the people down the line are getting.” Indeed. The fact Cuaron, a male A-list director, has to fight for his choice to cast a female lead in 2013 is disheartening to say the least.
So, what can we as feminists do? Well, the least we can do is SEE THE MOVIE.
Hollywood listens to box office numbers. We need to put our butts in seats and show there is a mass audience for female-led movies. We can also make sure that we get non-female butts in seats so that the spin about women-led movies only appealing to female audiences can die a long overdue death.
Like Bullock, who shared her hope that Cuaron’s casting of female leads would become the norm at Comic-Con, I too hope that one day soon it will not be a matter of note that a big-budget, action-packed blockbuster has a female protagonist.
I hope that just as Ryan is released from the grip of earth’s gravitational pull, we can be released from Hollywood patriarchy and the limited films it offers us.
Here’s to many more films like Gravity, that convey women ARE human, and to the realization that our successful survival as women is profoundly shaped via the ways in which media and popular culture depicts us (or fails to depict us).
Feel that, feminists? It’s a gravitational pull forcing tugging at you to look up show times in your area…