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I watched Taken and it annoyed me.

Yeah, that movie from a few years back with Qui-Gon Jinn being an avenging badass. It's almost too easy to be angry at; I can't possibly be the first to pick it apart and perhaps I am beating a dead horse here. Maybe it's famous for how hilariously misogynistic it is. But holy crap.

So Liam Neeson's daughter (and her friend) get kidnapped by Albanian human traffickers and the body/concussion count rises as Mr. Neeson cuts a swath of VIOLENCE to her rescue from sex slavery. It's obvious that the goal here was a satisfying dose of ass-kickery with a nice happily-ever-after -- entertainment, revenge fantasy, id candy, eat some popcorn, hooray for daddy badass.

I read lousy fantasy novels and love Kill Bill. I understand mindless escapism. And I probably would have been fine with this film--if there was a single female character in it who wasn't:
a) helpless
b) in some way responsible for the abduction, or
c) a passive plot stepping-stone.

I think what made it so disturbing to me is that I found it pretty entertaining during the fleeting moments that my brain was off, so I wonder how much of the subtext people would subconsciously swallow if they watched it without challenging any of it on some level.

So. Daddy Qui-Gon rescues his (virginal) daughter by the end of the movie, but we never find out what happens to her friend who is also abducted. [EDIT: I seem to recall now that she was shown dead or drugged at one point and that it's the last we see of her. Read on.] But I guess that's okay because Friend started out by telling Qui-Gon's girl that she planned to get laid by the charming French guy who ended up luring the two girls into the kidnapping (Friend also tells Daughter that she should get laid in France too because "You gotta lose it some time"). So who cares what happened to this girl because she probably deserved it for having an interest in sex, right filmmakers?

Friend is also largely to blame for the abduction because she lied to Daughter about the living arrangements they would have while in France--she said there would be other people in the house (adults I think, someone Daddy-approved) but there weren't, which allowed the kidnappers to barge right in and drag the girls out like sacks of potatoes.

Daughter's Mom, divorced from Qui-Gon, is portrayed as a frosty bitch who thinks that Qui-Gon is overprotective, and, together with Daughter/Friend, lies to Qui-Gon about the girls' actual plans for the France trip--they said they'd go to museums but are actually planning to follow U2 on a tour all over Western Europe. Dad finds out at the last second, gets mad at ex-wife for conspiring and then she calls him on being overprotective and worrying too much.

Oh, guess who turned out to be right.

Daddy can do no wrong. He kills and injures a lot of people with few to no consequences. Yes, many of them are grimy bastards who earn their bullets and broken noses. But there is also a scene in which he (nonfatally) shoots the wife of a French gov't dude because said dude is barring his path to rescue/vengeance. He shoots gov't dude's wife, not the man himself, who was being a sleaze and trying to stop Qui-Gon from rescuing Daughter. Violence against the wife is used as a way to force her husband's cooperation. She is pretty much a "Make Pierre do what I want him to do" button. We do not get anything that indicates Qui-Gon living with remorse afterwards. The candy-coated happy-ever-after at the end of the movie only tells us that Daughter loves Daddy for saving her and, guess what! She's gonna be a pop singer (with no PTSD or anything).

The one female character who is sort of directly helpful (I guess, maybe) is another abductee who Qui-Gon steals from the sex-slave holding pen and revives from a drug-induced stupor so that she can give him information on his daughter's whereabouts. We never see a woman attempting to fight back (against anyone, ever) in this film. Qui-Gon is even on the phone with his daughter as the abductors break in and his instructions are basically "They are going to take you, so tell me as much about them as you can so that I can come to your rescue."

In review:
- The girls probably wouldn't have been kidnapped if they weren't naive/horny
- The ex-wife thought they'd be okay but was wrong; the dad thought they were in danger and was right
- The dad uses violence against an innocent woman to make her husband do what he wants
- No consequences are shown for this
- No woman in this movie had any (positive) power over... anything
- The daughter was, in fact, encouraged to be completely passive

Okay. I know that these things do happen in real life. I know that fighting back is arguably too risky in assault situations, and also that this is supposed to be mindless entertainment and so on and so forth.

But how many movies/books/video games do we already have where no woman has any kind of power? Do we take it for granted that people won't take this stuff seriously? I don't think "stupid people will be stupid" is an excuse to keep making things like this.

All I'm saying is: imagine a version of this movie where Liam Neeson is a woman.
Do tell me if I'm missing something here.

(Immediately after we watched Taken I made everyone watch Hard Candy.)


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 28th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen the movie, but I do see those kinds of things all the time. The "slutty" girl (who is usually not unreasonably promiscuous, certainly no more so than guys in the film) is usually the a "bitch" with no common sense and no sensitivity to others who must either be put in her place/humiliated or killed, depending on the genre, or if we are supposed to find her alluring, then she is naughty but dangerous and an object of intense lust to be drawn from her slutty ways into a serious, submissive relationship "with a man. "Good girls" are virginal, inexperienced, or at least in search of a serious monogamous relationship with a man. Guys are funny and virile for sleeping around, unless they are trying to force themselves on the innocent heroine or also an "asshole" who is also usually sexually pushy. And if a guy is a virgin then the goal is losing it to become a man! The whole "women are helpless victims who need constant protection from big bad powerful men because they are weak and incapable of protecting themselves or fighting back" thing is everywhere too, and it's irritating. I get that it happens and the sad majority of really awful things like sex trades, rapes, serial killings, kidnappings etc. do happen to women, so those topics will involve the victimization of women, but there is something maddening about watching them just sit back and cower and wait for a man to rescue them or their inevitable death instead of DOING something about it. It would even be better if they fought back and still failed, because at least they would be active and fighting fir themselves. If a man just sat back and trembled like that, people would call him a coward, but with a woman it's just her inherent helplessness and feminine fear. It's incredibly frustrating.

Dec. 28th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
Yep, yep, yep. All true. And pretty much all covered in this movie! I used to be of a "Only very stupid people actually take the subtext of this stuff to heart" opinion, but then I saw the subtle misogyny in my own work (main characters almost all male, unpleasant female characters more femme than the nicer ones, etc.) I always roleplayed guys with my siblings because I'd never seen female characters who were funny or interesting or DID anything besides be a damsel in distress. It... yeah.
Dec. 28th, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
Honestly straight when I heard about that movie my though was "great, another story about how mean foreign people will do horrible things to pretty white girls if they try to make their own decisions." I knew it was a piece of shit in all regards just from one review, and the reviewers actually liked it well enough. And honestly from how you broke down the gender divide it sounds like it's taking about ten pages from the writing book of Lifetime Channel movies despite its macho posturing.

(Plus I bet the studio would have never considered producing the movie or would have wanted an immediate rewrite if the girl had been -gasp- not white. BECAUSE ONLY NICE PRETTY WHITE GIRLS EVER GET ABDUCTED, YOU KNOW THOSE FOREIGN TYPES JUST CAN'T KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF OF THEM.)
Dec. 29th, 2010 02:52 am (UTC)
Yes! Xenophobic/racist as well as sexist. It was like a vast greasy pizza of horrible between-the-lines bigotry. Argh, I think part of what drives me soooo nuts is that my mom LOVES it (she got it for Christmas after seeing it on TV). But I did get to explain to her why it bothered me so much, and I had a rare moment of coherence, and she could see where I was coming from, so that was cool.

(Deleted comment)
Dec. 30th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
Goddd I worry that I will alienate everyone I love if I become more vocal about what bothers me (because it's often misogyny/patriarchy and if you get mad at that YOU ARE A CRAZED FEMINAZI) and then I get mad at me for just keeping my head down and not challenging anything and can I just fast-forward fifty years from now and see if things have gotten any less frustrating? FYI I have become much more aware of social injustices (SO subtle and insidious that I barely noticed them before) from reading things you have posted on various places, so thank you. At least when everyone else is calling us angry loud people WE'LL HAVE EACH OTHER hahaha. D:

You gotta challenge these things or they will persist forever. Please understand that, guys!
Dec. 30th, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)
I dunno, Taken didn't really bother me, except for the wife-shooting part. I doubt I'd fare much better than the daughter if was kidnapped and sold to people, especially if I was, what, 18? I don't think a teenage boy would have fared any better in the same situation, either.

Though you're right, it would be like 10000% more awesome if Neeson's part had been a woman.

There should be a Taken 2 where Neeson gets kidnapped by his old enemies and his daughter, now a successful assassin/pop star, has to go and save him and murders everyone she meets on the way.
Dec. 30th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
The daughter's kidnapping/helplessness was just like 1/9999th of what bothered me--it was the consistency of every single woman in the movie being helpless, annoying or stupid. It could have had the whole kidnapping thing with dad saving her and been fine by me (I KNOW these things really happen and that only exceptional people really stand a chance against organized criminals with guns), but EVERY. SINGLE. GIRL. was useless or dumb. And that is just so prevalent in popular media, it's gotten very old for me. ):

I would watch that Taken 2 SO hard, like, fifty times.
Dec. 31st, 2010 02:40 am (UTC)
Yes, I hate it when shows and movies do that to women. Like you, I always wanted to RP as a boy character when I was younger because all of the girls in shows and movies were booorrrinnng or just "sexy" and, man, I was a little kid. I got mad when I started growing boobs, so of course I didn't want to be no "sexy" character!

Now I just try to create awesome female characters who are interesting and/or who can kill everything. That's my favorite!

We should MAKE Taken 2!!! At least in stick people format.

ALSO, you need to watch My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Avatar: The Last Airbender so you can see awesome awesome girls DOING STUFF.
Dec. 31st, 2010 06:52 am (UTC)
Yeah man your girl characters (all of your characters) are AWESOME. Ohhhh and I actually did watch the first episode of MLP on Youtube and was freaking delighted by it. It seems much closer to how I actually played with mine--SAVING THE WORLD and characters with PERSONALITIES, not just shopping and giggling and eating sundaes. (I seem to remember the last one, from the '90s, being like that.) I think Applejack is my favorite so far but it's hard to choose. And I can't wait to actually finish Avatar. It's really cool to see that some things are finally being made with interesting female characters. I wish I'd had these shows as a kid.

We should make TAKEN 2 as like a back-and-forth derptacular stickperson comic!!! You draw a page I draw a page. I'm gonna be gone for most of the month though. D:
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )