So, over the weekend, my partner and I watched Left Behind II: Tribulation Forces, starring Kirk Cameron.
(Unfortunately, our Streaming Movie Service didn't have the first Left Behind movie- *Sad Trombone*)
Anyway, do you know what this film series is about? If not, the series was originally a multi-volume book series dealing with the "End Times" as articulated by some Christians. You know, the Antichrist, the tribulations, the good people (ie- the Christians) disappearing to "Heaven" with everyone else being.... left behind on earth.
So, prime blogging material, right?
Or so I thought.
Turns out I could only get like halfway through the movie before I fell asleep. (I really did fall asleep, I'm not speaking metaphorically about how boring the movie was. Which, it was boring. But, also... really bad. And I was tired.)
Also turns out that I watched The Hunger Games movie this weekend, so that was quite the contrast.
Most of all, I was really struck at how male-centric Left Behind II was. In the rare film with a heroic female protagonist, men are rarely relegated solely to the role of relatively-mute eye candy/love interest whose most defining character trait is his relationship or devotion to the female protagonist.
Buffy, for instance, was surrounded by a group of men, many of whom could have carried their own series (and two of which have- Angel was created as a spin-off show, and Spike had his own comic book series). In Alias, Sydney Bristow had like one female friend, the rest of her interactions being primarily male friends and agents whose defining characteristics were not solely being Sydney's friend/relative/love interest. Xena, too, in addition to her "best pal" Gabrielle, was surrounded by male gods, male enemies, male allies, and the insufferable Joxer- all of whom had identities independent of their relationships with Xena. Scully, who was paired with her male partner Mulder rarely interacted with other women.... and I could continue.
Likewise was Peeta, the male lead, in Hunger Games a hero in his own right. He had strength, empathy, relative well-roundedness, and also flaws. One could, in fact, imagine a film or book centering him. 15 years ago, perhaps, the film would have been about him, rather than about Katniss. (See also, "In praise of Joanne Rowling's Hermione Granger series").
Unfortunately, many male-centric action/hero movies don't treat female characters quite as well. That exclusionary treatment, rather than the subject matter, is why I believe the genre has largely failed female audiences and have led some to the erroneous conclusion that girls and women just aren't into actiony ker-pow types of movies.
Male-centric action movies/shows consist primarily of men having Very Important alliances and conflicts with other men. Unlike the portayal of men in shows that feature female heros, any women portrayed are often most notable solely for their relationship to the men. Rarely do they possess the talents, competence, and (super)humanity on par with the male characters.
Male heroes, it seems, require women to stand around being in awe of them. What, for many girls and women, is to like about such movies and shows?
In Left Behind, we have a dude protagonist, as portrayed by Cameron, whose name is the ridiculously wannabe-bad-assedly-named "Buck" Williams. Buck rides a motorcycle and rolls his eyes at his superiors at work, just so we know what a badass dude he is.
We have his gaggle of born-again Christian friends who are, apparently, the "Tribulation Force" (ker-pow!)-which, in addition to Buck, consists of a male pastor, a male friend, and the male friend's daughter, Chloe.
I'm pretty sure the vast majority of Chloe's on-screen presence consisted of her standing in the background, looking pretty, looking scared, and asking the men questions. Because, unlike her, they're men and they Know Things. And so they have to Explain Things to her about what's going on, what's going to happen next, and what their manly plans are.
She of course (um, spoiler alert?) becomes Buck-the-Bad-Ass' love interest and eventual wife. So, in all, her major character traits turn out to be her relationships to men- she's a daughter, she becomes a wife, she becomes a Christian who worships a male god, and then she eventually becomes (spoiler alert!) a martyr. Literally.
In the hour or so I watched the movie, she only talked to one other woman, a woman who played Bad Slut to Chloe's Good Virgin. And in that brief conversation the two ladies, of course, talked only about Buck, seeing themselves as rivals for his love and attention. (LOL! Lucky them!)
I don't know. The portrayal really just made me sad for her, and for other women who accept this type of Christianity. Look at what this movie tells them their place is- to sit silently while the men Explain Everything to them. To know that wholesomeness and the approval of men can be stripped of them if they step out of line in any way and refuse to submit. To be self-sacrificial for the greater good of worshiping an exclusionary, extremely-violent male deity.
Gawd, give me a bow and arrows and drop me in the arena. Going down fighting would at least be infinitely more interesting than making googly eyes at Kirk Cameron while he explained shit to me.
Anyway, in all, I found the movie to be pretty ridiculous propaganda on par with an Ayn Rand novel.
The "antichrist" is also portrayed. Naturally, he's also a man and, from what I gathered, the Secretary General of the United Nations. He also has a really bad Russian(?) accent that he sometimes forgets to speak with. I don't know. According to Wikipedia, the character is actually supposed to be from Romania and he's the product of "genetic engineering and artificial insemination."
If one was a child, I imagine the notion of being left behind to suffer in torment forever unless you accept jesus would be rather frightening and would compel one to become a Christian.
But as an adult.... I can only think...really people? No. Really?