Johnny Guitar (1954)- Feminist or Antifeminist?

Johnny Guitar is the first western I have watched with a strong female protagonist that acts in a dominating and powerful way. She is featured on more posters for the film than the character the film is named after, Johnny. However, I found myself questioning how strong the character actually is, and whether or not the film presents a feminist viewpoint or not.

On the surface, I suppose it does. Joan Crawford portrays Vienna as a headstrong, resilient, and hardworking woman—all masculine traits. Her costuming is like what a male Western hero would wear. She is often seen sporting pants and a collared shirt, and has a gun on her. Her hair is short and conservative. When we first see her, she is towering above the men in her saloon and we hear them complaining about working for a woman. She is still in charge, none the less, and doesn’t let this criticism get to her. She has two men vying for her affections, rather than two women vying for a man’s affection. This is all progressive for the Western genre.

If you look deeper, though, you begin to see the cracks in the masculine, empowered view of this character. Both her and Emma, the villain of this film, are stereotypes even though they are powerful. Vienna is punished for her dominant ways. The entire town is after her, with very little evidence of any criminal activity. Emma leads this witch hunt, representing the woman who is jealous of another woman’s power, control, and sexuality. She resents Vienna’s freedom, a result of resisting traditional feminine gender roles. The men follow her lead without question because they demonize Vienna for being an empowered female. They attempt to kill a woman in a position of authority and destroy all she has worked hard for, symbolically representing the fear of powerful, successful women. Emma, the other women with a position of authority, is shot and killed. Regardless of how the women are punished, the point is that both women in the film are treated terribly because of their positions of power. The underlying message of Johnny Guitar is that powerful women are dangerous.

The film also ends on a romantic note, regardless of the fact that Vienna has lost everything. One of her closest friends was shot, her business burned, and she was almost hung and then shot. But all that matters is that she found love again (eye roll). This movie is progressive because it places women in traditionally male roles, but it still stereotypes these women and ultimately ends with Vienna as lesser than the male characters around her.

She has lost everything and is back to fulfilling the role that women are meant to play—the lover.  The film allows women to be empowered temporarily, just not too empowered to the point they surpass all the male characters in the end.

-B

The Importance of Supergirl

I just started watching Supergirl on Netflix, and while I am aware I’m behind, I felt that I needed to acknowledge the show’s importance, particularly to female audience members.

As I watched the first episode, I found myself getting emotional but I couldn’t figure out why. I’m not going to lie, the show is pretty cheesy and is very similar to other shows of its genre, like Arrow and The Flash. But when I finally saw Supergirl in her costume flying through the air, it hit me: I’ve never seen a superhero television show with a female lead.

Jessica Jones has a female lead, of course, but Supergirl feels different and is on an actual network, unlike Netflix. While Jessica Jones is dark and socially relevant, Supergirl is shown in the same cheesy, hopeful light that male hero television shows have. She is treated the same exact way as Green Arrow and Flash are. The tropes are the same, including the damsel roles. Except rather than the beautiful girl being the damsel, it’s the beautiful man. In one episode, James is taken hostage and handcuffed helplessly while Supergirl fights to free him and save the day.

While watching this show the little girl came out in me, and I imagined what it would have been like to grow up watching this show. To know that female superheroes are just as capable and deserving as male superheroes. My first glimpse into the life of a female superhero was weirdly enough in the 1960’s Batman show. My dad watched it as a kid and showed it to me as a kid too. Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl meant everything to me, although I was too young to fully understand why. She showed me that girls can kick ass too.

But Supergirl does that in a more prominent way, by being the star of her own TV show. She isn’t just there as a sidekick, or as a love interest. She’s the hero. And not just as Supergirl, but as her “secret identity” Kara Danvers as well. Even in her office job she’s intelligent, cheerful, and does not put up with people’s crap, while also seeing the good in everyone. She is well rounded and well developed, and her boss is a fierce and intelligent woman as well.

Although Supergirl is more of an important, impactful show than fantastic one, it is still enjoyable. Targeting a show of this stature at a female lead instead of a male one is a big risk, but for many women and young girls out there it is a necessary one. It’s sometimes a bit too chick-flicky for my taste, but it is better than having no female led superhero television shows at all.

-B

Masculinity in Red River (1948)

The name John Wayne immediately evokes images of a tough, American Western hero. His character’s ooze testosterone and are considered by some the epitome of manhood. The 1948 Western Red River is a tale of masculinity that attempts to critique certain tropes of the Western genre. As I watched it I noticed a few things that represented this idea and thought I would share a few of them.

Wayne plays Tom Dunson, a rough and tough cowboy, headstrong and possessing big dreams. Montgomery Clift plays his adopted son, Matthew Garth, who wants to live up to his father’s expectations but is more softhearted than his elder. Throughout the film, Garth struggles to fulfill his father’s dream of driving cattle north to Missouri and it results in a tale of masculine power.

In one scene in particular, two men symbolically compare their masculinity. In what could also be read as homoerotic subtext, Garth and Cherry Valance compare their guns. Guns are a traditionally phallic symbol. By comparing their “guns”, they are measuring each other’s levels of toughness and strength.

As the film goes on, Dunson grows more irritable, cruel, and violent in his leadership role. This equates extreme masculine power to violence. When he exerts control, it usually involves him shooting, whipping, or wanting to hang someone. When someone disagrees with him, he sees this as threatening to his masculine control and lashes out. He sees his son as being weak, by showing a heart. Garth stops Dunson from killing men multiple times, and is essentially seen as less dominant because of it. When he finally “man’s up” and takes control of the cattle, his father threatens to kill him in order to feel less emasculated for losing his control of the group.

Later on in the film, Garth meets Tess Millay, played by Joanne Dru. She illustrates and interesting take on masculine/feminine roles. When we first see her, it is in the middle of a battle with Native Americans, and rather than cowering and screaming, she is shown shooting a gun. Even after she is shot, she doesn’t immediately faint. She manages to slap Garth in the face first. As I said early, violence can be equated to masculinity, and by shooting a gun and hitting him in the face she takes on masculine characteristics.

Millay is continuously shown taking on masculine characteristics, as well as holding on to her femininity in her way of dress and the romantic subplot involving Garth. Her character is mainly driven by love, but she isn’t a damsel. She is actually the driving character of the ending.

In the final “showdown” between Dunson and Garth, the typical masculine tropes of the Western genre are subverted. Dunson shows up to follow through with his threat to kill Garth, which would cause him to resume a dominant, masculine role. Garth, however, refuses to use his gun. Dunson is frustrated with this act, and throws both his gun and his son’s gun away, castrating himself and his son of their manhood (remember early the comparison of the guns as a way of comparing manhood). They result to a fist fight.  Millay finally steps in, the only person holding a gun. This gives her control of the scene as she is holding the phallic object. She uses this masculine form of control to speak about how ridiculous their battle for masculinity is in the first place. Not only does she illustrate the stubbornness of the battle over manhood, she also speaks about a man loving another man. She symbolizes both femininity and masculinity in that moment, holding control over the scene but also expressing love.

Red River comments on the traditional ideas of masculinity in Western film that helped perpetuate myths of the American West.

-B

 

Sunshine Blogger Award

This isn’t my normal type of blog post because I was nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award by Plain, Simple Tom Reviews!

Here’s the rules for the award:

Post the award on your blog

Thank the person who nominated you

Answer the 11 questions they set you

Pick another 11 bloggers (and let them know they are nominated!)

Set them 11 questions

So, here it goes,

Questions for me:

1.What’s would you do with £1 million?

Well, first, I’m American so I believe that would convert to a bit more than that. But regardless, I’d use it to pay off my student loans and then travel.

2.What’s the best way to spend a Friday night?

It depends on my mood. If I want to go out I like going for drinks in Atlanta somewhere, if I stay in I like to binge watch Netflix with my boyfriend and order pizza.

3.What is your favourite animated TV series?

Young Justice. It was canceled and I am forever mad about it.

4.What are your 3 favourite drinks?

Is this alcoholic or not? Does me even asking that make me look like an alcoholic?

Alcoholic: Rum & Coke, Ace’s Pinapple Cider, Seabreeze

Non-Alcoholic: Coke, Coffee (with cream and sugar), Any kind of tea

  1. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Writing has always been my stress relief or way of expressing myself. I like to get my thoughts out on paper, and I love mixing that with my other passion, which is film. Just getting my words out there feels great, even if only one or two people see them.

  1. Which famous person would you most want to slap in the face?

Ooooh boy, this is a difficult one. I’m usually not physically violent, but if I had to it would probably be Kanye West. Scratch that—definitely Kanye West.

  1. Bionic arm or Bionic leg?

I mean, neither really. I like my arm and legs the way they are, intact and human. But I guess bionic arm. I have no reasoning. I just chose.

  1. What’s your favourite Disney song?

There are so many directions this could go. Animated Disney or Disney Channel? Because I grew up in the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana generation. If I had to choose it would be Won’t Say I’m in Love from Hercules. I belt that out in the car or shower all the time. I love Meg.

  1. What is the best film to watch for when you’re feeling low?

I like to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed by Ben Stiller. I think it’s an underrated film. It changed my outlook on life when I saw it. It makes me smile and want to travel the world, take risks. It’s just a feel-good film.

  1. Chocolate or sex?

Chocolate. Especially dark chocolate.

  1. Which 5 actors/actresses would you have at a dinner party?

Can I choose dead ones? That seems like a stretch. I’ll do current ones (sorry Robert Mitchum).

  1. Ryan Gosling
  2. Margot Robbie
  3. Oscar Isaac
  4. Jared Leto
  5. Emma Watson

My questions for others:

  1. Do you prefer a certain genre of film, and if so, why?
  2. If you could meet one actor that has passed away, who would it be?
  3. Which do you like better: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, or none of the above?
  4. Do you prefer to watch movies at home or in the theater?
  5. What does being a writer mean to you?
  6. What song would you consider your personal theme song?
  7. Who is your celebrity crush?
  8. Favorite film from before this century?
  9. Favorite film from the current century?
  10. What is your opinion on remakes of classic films? Love them or hate them?
  11. What is your favorite thing about yourself? Practice self- love more often 🙂

I tag: 

Let’s Go To The Movies

Jordan And Eddie 

Evelyn Film Fan

Film Fan Stake 

Popcorn Guzzler 

Content For You Blog

Film Carnage 

Movie Rob

Noodle Break

Big Flick Reviews 

KG’s Rants

 

Thanks to Tom for nominating me!

 

-B