Saturday, 6 January 2018

BABY DRIVER (film) and its problematic content

BABY DRIVER - 2017
Director: Edgar Wright.
Cast: Ansel Elgort / Lily James / Jon Hamm / Jamie Foxx / Kevin Spacey / Jon Bernthal / Eiza González
Content Advisory: R for strong language and violence throughout
Source: Rented.


After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.





This is not a usual review. I'm not doing it in the usual format or spending the usual time reviewing the different aspects of the film. Instead, I'm going to be addressing just one of the movie's aspects: a serious, offensive, problematic element that the film ends up languishing in.
Please share your thoughts in the comments :) Let's discuss it.


Before I get to the point of this post, I just want to summarise my opinion on the rest of the film - which isn't all bad. It's actually an extremely original and fascinating story idea. The soundtrack is funky and stylish, and the choreography is expertly coordinated with the actors' movements. The action sequences are also terrific.
But the acting isn't brilliant, with the exception of Jamie Foxx. As for the characters, they're stereotypical and flat. Baby and Debora's relationship has no development, nor does Baby's tragic back story ever come full circle or get proper substance. Then there's the plot. A plot that has little to show for itself, and can't decide where to work its humour and tragedy. And instead of Baby's lip singing and dancing coming across fun and catchy, it's embarrassing. I honestly just cringed. I've no aversion to musical content in films, but this one feels, I don't know, silly? I mean, is it a musical or not. Please decide.



However, the film has a problem bigger than all those little ones. And its problem is how it treats and portrays its women. This is 2018, after all, and I thought Hollywood would've learnt by now.
Obviously not.
There are three women in the film, and I'm going to be analysing their roles and how they've been written.


Baby's mother: Baby's mother dies in a car accident when he's still a young boy. She's a singer, and is being abused by Baby's father. And the problem starts there. Regardless of inevitably hating an abusive relationship because of what it is, I have a big problem with this film's handling of this particular abusive relationship and how it seems to have been thrown in for no particular reason. Not only is it completely unnecessary in the plot, but it's also never properly addressed. Yes, it's a tiny part of the bigger story, but I still don't believe you can ever simply sweep a relationship like that under the rug and by doing so "make light of it." It's not an extra element you can add, just like that. It comes with strings attached. It's too big a thing to treat lightly and include "just because". It's agonising element, and writers need to handle it thoughtfully. This film doesn't do that - it just throws it in to try create pity for the mother's character. And just by the way, abusive relationships are not character development, either. Which is what the movie seems to have been aiming for, too.
Furthermore, the mother dying in a violent car crash is the catalyst for Baby's story.  It's the tragic back story, the romanticised horror of a young, innocent woman dying that serves as Baby's motivation and constant emotional conflict. Her death is solely used to serve his story.
To be honest, though, this trope goes both ways: father and mother. Parents' deaths are frequently used as motivation, inner conflict, and catalysts for their kids' lives in books and films. So however questionable the trope may be, this film and Baby's mother's death actually isn't a special case. Fathers' deaths have been misused as well.

In conclusion, although Baby's mother's portrayal in this film is unsettling and her abusive relationship badly and insubstantially written, her role is not as problematic as the roles of the other two women...


Debora: Debora is the love interest. She's also a waitress, and apparently has no life outside of Baby. And as we all know, you can't go wrong writing a female character whose sole purpose in life is to serve her boyfriend and make him look like a hero...
*Sigh*.
Debora's character is a hot mess. We learn nothing about her life apart from the fact that she likes music, cars, and that her mother's dead. Her role in the story is first as Baby's love interest, and then his liability when the writers apparently need a damsel in distress to make things exciting. Frankly, that's just lazy, sexist writing. Her participation in the climatic fight - whacking the villain with a rod - is a nice touch, but it doesn't redeem her character. She puts her entire life (spoiler: she doesn't actually have one. She even admits to Baby that there's "nothing for me here". Which is convenient, I might add, because now she's free to be his devotional love interest) on hold so that she can run away with him when he says the word. To make it worse, Debora actually watches him murder people right in front of her eyes, and still doesn't doubt for a second he's worth following to the ends of the earth. (And please note, they hardly even know each other, either). Even when Baby makes it obvious that his mysterious job is questionable, Debora doesn't doubt for a second that he's not to be feared. He's not the bad guy. Obviously not.  She takes his word for it, throws caution - and common sense and any chance of character development - to the wind, and drives wherever and whenever he says go.


Darling / Monica Castello: Darling is one of the gangsters Baby drives for, and she's also the wife of one of them. As far as stereotypes go, she's a well known one. She's the badass, sexy chic. And heck, I actually liked her - however flat and stereotypical her character was. She was fun.
And then she died.
Yes, another dead woman.
Of all the women in this film, it's Darling whom I think suffers the most. She's the woman who's "In the Refrigerator", as the trope goes. The "Woman in Refrigerator " trope is when a woman is killed off to aid and give motivation to a man's story. Darling does this for her husband, who becomes the lead villain to avenge her and tomgive us an action-packed finale.
Come on, they had to get a villain from somewhere right? And obviously, from the writers' perspective, what's Darling if not collateral damage.

She is violently shot down by the police and immediately Baby and Debora have themselves a villain who blames Baby for his wife's death. And naturally, he wants to kill Debora for revenge (which is another way her character's simply used in this sexist movie). So as you can see, Darling is only in the film so that her death can give make her husband the villain.
It's sick. It's sexist. It's insulting.



People, I can't even begin to accept this as right. Women are not figures to be abused and killed off to further the male characters' stories, and they are certainly not to be reduced to sexist stereotypes because the writers are either too lazy or too lost in a misogynistic mindset to pay them attention. Look, it's Baby's story, he's the protagonist; I get that and there's nothing wrong with that. But write the female characters with brains, humanity, and even - shock and horror - personality, and you never know: your stories might even be, dare I say it, more interesting. I know you'll be respecting women better, that's for sure. And come on, it's also realistic. If nothing else. 


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