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Feminism in Film



22 September 2016

Feminism in Film

What makes a movie feministic? There is much debate about this topic among critics, but some of the criteria is a bit biased. For example, many critics say that Jane Got a Gun is a movie which could have been made feministic, but there is more evidence than not that this movie really is feministic (Jane Got a Gun).

To really understand how Jane Got a Gun is a feminism film, we need to understand the elements of feminism and the misconceptions of feminism. There are many categories in feminism which give the audience more criteria to look for when it comes to deciding whether a film does show feminism. Liberal feminism is defined as equality. This refers to equality with men as well as main stream society. Socialist feminism is represented by women overthrowing capitalism. For example, a woman held down by capitalism would overcome or start a movement. Cultural feminism is focused on building systems for women (Kinds of Feminism). Also, cultural feminism is dedicated to celebrating women in the ways that they are different from me. This would include giving birth and things that some would consider “womanly duties.” This term does not have to be considered negative and will be further discussed in the reading (Derr).

When considering what makes a film feministic, there are many standards. The Bechdel test states that there needs to be two female characters, but feminism is not defined by how much girl power can be produced. There is also the opinion that when it comes to feministic film, there should be no male influence. Equality is a big part of feminism, especially liberal feminism. Male influence should not be rule out whether a film is feministic or not (Derr). A film may show equality between the two with neither being suppressed. Another standard is that sexism should not be present. The absence or presence of sexism does not define feminism at all. In the instance that sexism is involved, the female character can overcome. In the instance of sexism being absent just provides equality between women and main stream society (Derr). Needless to say, these criteria are flawed in a way that limits feminism greatly. We could even say these criteria are limiting the standards of feminism and creating an environment where women have to work overtime to achieve such honors as equality. While it may be true that there are a lot of obstacles that women need to battle for equality, this does not mean that equality is not always unrecognized by someone or as a whole. One of the main misconceptions in feministic films is that, whether we realize it or not, we expect female dominance, but the main goal of feminism is equality (Derr).

If the audience really wants to observe what makes a film feminist, we should consider the proper criteria. This includes whether a female has her own supporting role and goal outside of the male’s. When the audience considers this though, it is important to understand that the male and female can have the same goal, but the female’s role is equal, but separate from the male individual (Derr). For example, if the male and female have the same goal of survival, it is perfectly fine for them to bring their own survival skills to the table and rely on each other equally. Out keywords are always equally. Another important question for our criteria is: Is our leading lady or female character an object or subject (Derr)? For the presence of feminism, we always want our female to be a subject, never an object. When the female is a subject, she is defined by her own roles and goals. She is individual and has an equally important role within the film. Without her role, there is important components lacking (Derr). As for our last criteria, we should consider if feminism was fed to the female. Many may believe that this specific criterion is not suitable for feminism, but there is evidence stating that it should be considered. For example, if a man gives a woman the chance for her “voice” to be heard; if he gives life to her as an individual who needs to be heard and considered, this should still be considered feminism. To further argue this point, every day, we all see something about equality. We are asking main stream to recognize someone as equal. In some cases, it asks for people to use their “privilege” to speak up to create equality.

Jane Got a Gun is a western about a woman who has endured a lot of tough times. Her husband gets in trouble with some old foes and she goes to her ex-lover, Dan, asking for help. The story unfolds, telling a backstory, and eventually down to the main fight. Jane is the main character and the only adult female throughout the movie (Edgerton). From Jane’s history, we see that she was exploited and used as a woman, until her husband, Hammond, rescues her from this exploitation. Hammond gave Jane a voice and recognized her as an individual. In return, Jane marries him and they live equally (Edgerton). Hammond also taught her to hunt, which is another indication that he sees her as equal. It is implied that Hammond recognized her as an individual and she was recognized as an equal, especially by the antagonists. Jane also takes pride in being a mother which relates to cultural feminism. She takes care of her home and land, especially when her husband is on the road. Jane has her own goal in mind and that is to save her husband. She sticks to this until the very end, insisting on staying. Dan tried to persuade her to leave and save herself, but Jane would not (Edgerton). Jane is also a subject and not an object. It was made clear that she is needed by both Hammond and Dan as an equal partner throughout the movie. Both needed her in some way as she needed them, equally (Edgerton). Jane is also given the opportunity by both Hammond and Dan to have a “voice.” Hammond pulled her out of being exploited by sticking up for her and taking her from such situation. Dan let her be independent also. At one point, Dan gives her the opportunity to shoot the man who raped her years ago, even though Dan most likely wanted the honors for himself. Dan recognized her equally as someone who could take care of herself and past afflictions (Edgerton). Throughout the movie, both Jane and Dan work together. Dan’s goal soon becomes Jane’s goal as they work together to save her husband (Edgerton).

Although Jane does not show an extreme amount of courage, she does overcome her past and the trials that played out in the film. A lot of the time, we expect for feminism to be dominate from the beginning, but we do not consider the fact that feminism can be in the making. Jane Got a Gun is more of a feminist movement. Considering the time and setting, Jane have achieved quite a bit in the feministic world. Closer to the conclusion of the story, we find that The Bishops are starting to take her seriously as an equal (Edgerton). In the end, the main antagonist dares to believe that Jane left once again, running away. To his fear, she has him cornered and extracted her vengeance out on him. By the end of the movie, Jane has really become more assertive. Though she came close to giving up, she found purpose. Her ultimate goal was not achieved, but she developed more as a character and was considered an equal (Edgerton).

The proper criteria for deciding whether a film is feministic are the women having their own roles and goal, identifying if they are an object or a subject, and asking ourselves if the female was given a “voice.” It is important for us not to expect female dominance if our ultimate goal is equality. Please keep these criteria in mind as an audience. An open mind is always the best.

Works Cited

(Derr), Holly L. What Really Makes a Film Feminist?. The Atlantic, 13 November 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/11/what-really-makes-a-film-feminist/281402/

Jane Got a Gun. Rotten Tomatoes, 2016. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jane_got_a_gun/

Edgerton, Tambakis, Duffield. Jane Got a Gun. Directed by Gavin O’Connor, Relativity Media, 20 January 2016.

Kinds of Feminism. Virginia Woolf Seminar by Doctor Rose Neuman, University of Alabama, September 2010. http://www.uah.edu/woolf/feminism_kinds.htm.

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