Sunday, April 25, 2010

We have enough damsels in distress; how about we try some knights in need?

From the April 23/30, 2010 double issue of Entertainment Weekly:

"'In the original script, there was a huge sequence where Edwin Salt saves his wife, who's in danger,' says [director, Phillip] Noyce. 'And what we found was when Evelyn Salt saved her husband in the new script, it seemed to castrate his character a little.'"

...I'm sorry, but are you saying that it is completely okay for a woman to be a damsel in distress but that it is in no way okay for a man to need a woman to save him? I'm calling shenanigans. I know that women have traditionally been cast as more damsel in distress roles and I know that I feel confident enough in my gender and sexuality to admit that I am okay putting my ego aside. I am not asking that women never be cast as damsels in distress, because it happens; everyone needs saving. But it's just that; EVERYONE needs saving, including men.

I do not think that there is anything wrong with a man playing the role of a "damsel" in distress - let's call him a "knight in need" if we want to keep with alliteration. Knights in need happen because, sorry guys, but you need us probably more than we need you. And I think that it is a horrible message to send to men to tell them that they cannot be vulnerable creatures. We are slowly coming to a time where we can see women as tough creatures, tougher than men, able to kick just as much ass. We are complex.

Men are complex too. The problem with an approach like this, however, is that it is training men to go to the old standby - they always have to be tougher than the women. Maybe the woman is the center of attention, like Evelyn Salt in the upcoming movie, Salt. But the man still needs to be just as tough, if not tougher, than the woman. She can take the spotlight, but he's still the MAN, you know?

No, actually, I don't. I don't presume to know how this will play out in the actual movie, but the way that this article was phrased, the way the director put it, it just riled me up. Being a woman is fucking hard because if we want to be more than the damsel in distress we have to prove it daily and if we are the damsel in distress then we're dragging down those women who don't want it. Men can be vulnerable and women can be tough and there is nothing wrong with either of those options. There is nothing wrong with a woman saving a man, and yet, it makes men uncomfortable.

Well, I'd honestly love to see a few men squirm to see that because that's exactly how I feel when I see silly women having to be rescued by the most masculine of men. It doesn't make me uncomfortable, however, when it makes sense, when it isn't about the gender and it's about the characters. When a female character ends up in harm's way and a male character has the ability and the will to rescue her, that's not always a painful thing for me to watch. And it would be equally comfortable if I were to watch a man end up in such a dire situation where a female protagonist would need to take charge.

Now, I have the feeling that the end product of the film will still prove that Angelina Jolie's Evelyn Salt is a badass and capable of saving her husband and that, perhaps, she will still come out being shown to be the tougher of the pair. But I also have the feeling that the original draft placed Edwin Salt's wife in a much more embarrassing situation because it could because women can be placed in more embarrassing damsel in distress scenarios. Only that's wrong.

We women may not understand quite how being kicked in the balls feels, but that doesn't mean that being kicked in the vagina doesn't hurt.

I don't define myself as a feminist, not that there's anything wrong with empowering women. When I read things like this, I realize that women still need empowering. We are not equal to men and we are not interchangeable. Sure, genders have their differences, but not like this. I hope that Evelyn Salt will prove that women can be tough too. And it'll probably be better for the story if her husband is not a total damsel in distress. But it would have been nice for men to see what we women get to see on a regular basis.

And believe me, the pain it strikes through me and the damage it does to my life as a woman lasts a lot longer than getting kicked in your balls does.


  1. Well if it makes you feel better, the Disney movie "Enchanted" had the role-reversal of damsel in distress. McDreamy was rescued by the girl, well technically the chipmunk did it, but the girl went after to save the guy! The point stands!

  2. I thought about bringing up Enchanted, actually. But even so, it's more the exception than the rule. An adorable, awesome exception, but an exception nonetheless.

  3. It is an exception, but for Disney, they're getting better because remember their past record with the subject. And I thought I might add that I completely agree with you about the whole subject. XD

  4. But also because Enchanted is all about being upside down so it's less a powerful woman than "har, isn't it funny to see a woman doing something that normally the MAN would do???"