From “Gosh, Sweetie, That’s a Big Gun”, a dialogue between The New York Times’ chief film critics, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, on The New York Times website:
“The question is why are so many violent girls and women running through movies now, especially given that the American big screen hasn’t been very interested in women’s stories, violent or not, in recent decades, an occasional Thelma, Louise and Jodie Foster character notwithstanding. There are other exceptions, of course, usually romantic comedies that are so insipid and insulting I want to kill everyone on screen. Wait a minute—is it female rage fueling this trend?
“It is interesting how frequently the violence of these girls is overseen or inculcated by a father figure who is not always a literal dad: Nicolas Cage in Kick-Ass, training his killer pixie to use sharp blades, big-caliber guns and foul language; Scott Glenn in Sucker Punch, urging his girl warriors into battle; and Eric Bana in Hanna, sending his darling out to fight the wicked witch (Cate Blanchett). Are these paternal figures reassuring or creepy?
“The bad seed isn’t new, but what seems different is that young women and girls can kill today without being necessarily and fatally pathologised.
“It used to be easier to make movies with women. You could put them on a pedestal and either keep them there (as revered wives, virginal girls) or knock them down, as with femmes fatales.
“[David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo]… movie will be better than the Swedish model because he’s the superior director, but I also hope he will more forcefully engage the theme that was blatant in Larsson’s book, as evident in its blunt original title: Men Who Hate Women.
“I think the first [Lisbeth] Salander movie ran into a serious problem when it tried to translate Larsson’s anger about pervasive sexual violence into cinematic terms. It is in the nature of the moving image to give pleasure, and in the nature of film audiences—consciously or not, admittedly or not—to find pleasure in what they see. So in depicting Salander’s rape by her guardian in the graphic way he did, the director… ran the risk of aestheticizing, glamorizing and eroticizing it…
“The risk is not dissolved but rather compounded when the answering, avenging violence is staged and shot in almost exactly the same kind of gruesome detail, since the audience knows it is supposed to enjoy that. In other words, even though the earlier violation can be said to justify the later revenge, that logic turns out to be reversible. You could call this the I Spit on Your Grave paradigm. It is definitely at work in Sucker Punch, which gains in sleaziness by coyly keeping its rape fantasies within PG-13 limits and fairly quivering with ecstasy as it contemplates scenes of female victimization.
“The gun-toting women and girls in this new rash of movies may be performing much the same function for the presumptive male audience: It’s totally ‘gay’ for a guy to watch a chick flick, but if a babe is packing heat—no worries, man!
“Jean-Luc Godard posited that all he needed to make a movie was a girl and a gun… To put the gun in the hands of the girl may be a way to cut out the middleman, as it were, and also, as you suggest, to maximize commercial potential by providing something for everyone…”
Images via The Independent, The New York Times.