Last week in recitation, we discussed gender and mainstream/independent filmmaking: the difficulty of defining an independent filmmaker in terms of success and studio budget & the absence of femininity in Kathryn Bigelow’s films being contrasted by the hyped masculinity of her characters.
We begin with the rape scene in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet”: Dennis Hopper degrades Rossellini, seen as the kidknapping of her stance as a human being, for she is but a subordinate to his sexuality. A movie like “Blue Velvet” can be approached as an independent film because its aesthetics and plot breaks away from the convention of Hollywood films, most which felt like a pre-packaged narrative submersed in predicability, special effects and favorable stars. However, David Lynch is an acclaimed director and because of his status, the question of whether Lynch is an independent or not is brought up. Similar situation with Quentin Tarantino for his career launched into cult status with Reservoir Dogs and then progressed into Hollywood recognition with Pulp Fiction and t he Kill Bill series. Quentin’s presence and authorship is felt throughout all his films most would argue, despite having received large budgets for films like Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 and Inglorious Bastards.
We then transitioned to Bigelow’s depiction of masculine and femimine qualities in her characters. We first see a scene from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers in which a female soldier challenges her sergeant to a fight. She kicks ass throughtout the first half of the fight but he takes her down,thus winning. Initially one can believe that the characters are portrayed as equals, in the sense that the playing field has balanced for both sexes. Men and women in the armed forces are good-looking and are very masculine (even the women) for they are rugged individuals with their nationalism antics and physicality, however, women are still a step below men.
With Bigelow’s Point Break, Tyler is a tomboy. She rides with the boys but has no other real function as we typically see in films with a supporting actress. She is not a damsel in distress and isn’t hounded by the male characters. It’s as if Bigelow broke away from conventions in voiding Tyler from her “womanhood” but it’s not negative because she isn’t objectified. In the essay “From The Loveless to Point Break”, Bigelow’s attempt or achievement in avoiding feminism in her work is discussed and perceived as a motive for her to succeed in Hollywood, which is accepted as a man’s arena.
Bigelow thus focuses on the sexuality and masuculinity of men in Point Break. There is tension of homoeroticism between Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze as a complex relationship forms between the two. Reeves is attracted to the surfer lifestyle and possibly to Swayze. Whether it is awe or a strange fascination for another man who is as physically able as Reeves, one can comprehend the world Bigelow created. She plays with the conventions of late 80s/early 90s action films by having very masculine characters who are no doubt the ideal men in the American mindset, but she detracts from this ideal: the men are thrown into a world absent of women. Through this absence is the idea of male narcissism and gay brotherhood suggested…men do not need women, et cetera.