16.4.11

Male and female fantasy

Every time I get ready to go out on the town, I open my wardrobe and have a long hard look at the contents, considering what angle to play. How best to dress to draw attention. What kind of attention I want to draw, and what will look infinitely less embarrassing when I am passed up for the petite buxom babes with their cascading waves of hair leaning coquettishly on the bar next to me. 
I've previously talked about the way that a person's attitude to the opposite sex is defined purely based on their physical attraction to them. So I'll put it to you that every time we dress we consider our options in the exact same way. Whatever we wear, whenever or wherever we wear it, we are conveying a message. Putting on an outfit is putting on a costume, or a character. 
Inevitably, this will lead on to Sucker Punch. 
Unsurprisingly, the film has been panned, and rightly so (it's about as deep as a bath you can't drown in and about as subtle as a freight train) but the main thing that's caused upset is the treatment of the female characters. Abused women from the start, the inmates of a mental asylum forced to perform as exotic dancers and complete their daily prison chores in their underwear. Yes, you can see why this has been classified as a 12A - the fanboys were no doubt queueing in droves. My computer-game-addicted ex would love it. The lead female may have created her fantasy land, but it's quite clear someone else had her dress up like something from Dead or Alive and put all her comrades in leather corsets. 
And yet...
I remember buying a corset when I was at university, urged on by a rocker-goth friend of mine. There is something strangely satisfying about compressing your organs to the point that you can barely swallow but also to the point that your waist is half the width it was before. I didn't much care for it - I thought it gave me linebackers' shoulders. But when I saw said rocker friend wearing it, it did give me a good insight into the way that clothes that had previously been designed purely for the benefit of men have, as women have advanced, allowed women to draw power from them as well. While it may be shallow, and it may cause the traditional feminists to wring their hands, the knowledge that a short skirt draws eyes to you is empowering in a base way. Feminity is a power, and there's nothing more depressing than not feeling feminine. I used to love trying to dress androgynously, but since I started having issues with my weight I've found it even more important to try and come across as overtly feminine to compensate for my body shape and my not-particularly-girly manner. While the characters in Sucker Punch have the added advantage of being overtly feminine (due to excessive parts of their femininity being on constant display) it just wouldn't have been the same if they'd been in trouser suits. It's the toughening up of their usual corsetry that makes the outfits come across as empowering (if they come across as that at all). Taking a design constructed by a man and making it tough. It'll have the fanboys drooling in the aisles, as it did the first (no doubt male) who imagined the look. But show me the woman who feels as empowered in baggy jeans and a loose sweatshirt. I don't doubt she exists, and I respect her eternally. But in the same way a man feels like a man when he puts on a suit, a woman feels like a woman when she dresses like one. I'd no doubt feel just as empowered in full body armour as I would in the outfit as modelled by Olivia Wilde in Tron Legacy, but the difference is that one is designed to celebrate. And whether that's pandering to the male ideal or not, I'd prefer to celebrate what I look like than try to disguise it, were I in the position to do so. 

2 comments:

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  2. I haven't seen Sucker Punch, and so can't pass judgement on anything other than the trailer and stills that I've seen. I must admit that the clothes worn by the female cast, to me, are neither sexy nor empowering.

    Apparently, Jack Snyder stated that it can be interpreted as a critique on geek culture’s sexism and objectification of women, although it seems that nothing has been done to the graphic novel's storyline to break any stereotypes.

    Aside from that, the sepia-toned imaginings and visual side look impressive. It was like that though with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I see stills, concept drawings and the like, and say a silent 'bravo' to the art department and design teams, knowing that the film itself is going to fall flat.

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