Saturday, February 02, 2008

On Women Being Murderous in the Movies

I'm currently re-editing a film I shot with a team of four others during a 48-hour film festival three months ago, in order to submit it to another film festival this March. It's difficult sometimes to work with a diverse group of people and produce something that doesn't reinforce dominating ideologies.

The film follows a drug dealer as he struggles for independence against his sexist supplier who orders the dealer and the supplier's girlfriend around forcefully. At one point his girlfriend (the only woman in the film) approaches the street dealer and they engage in an intimate conversation about (what else?) life with drugs. She pitches an offer to the dealer saying that she can help him kill the supplier. However, an aircraft flies overhead and neither one of them can hear each other. There is a moment of miscommunication that is portrayed with the use of subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The street dealer thinks she is helping him by offering free drugs, and he agrees to this alleged offer, while she believes the dealer has accepted the offer to kill the supplier (i.e. her boyfriend.) Ultimately, the woman murders the supplier, and the street dealer has a moment of agitated confusion.

I wonder about this film, called A Brief, Bright Flash of Red Light, and whether it is reinforcing a dominant sexist ideology that the woman is The Deceiver. This idea can be traced back to at least the Book of Genesis. And with all the talk about miscommunication from theorists like Deborah Tannen etc., we should expect that it is always the man who has the dirty intention to deceive or to ignore The Other, not the woman. Except in this case, both the man and the woman are expecting free favors from the other, yet the man is cheated. That is what Nietzsche said about a woman's power over man. Woman is mysterious and uses deception as a substitute for power. As long as men do not understand the source of this power, she remains more powerful than him.

Conversely, then, by acknowledging that woman has this covert power over a man, and eschewing the false-feminist theorists who gloss over this power analysis and proclaim there are no innate differences in these power relationships, the film tells the truth about women. It in fact says that women have more power over men than the man is willing to accept. The man thought that only another man who is more powerful than him could overcome him, and it is proved that a woman is more powerful than both.

This is not a film about morality. Though the woman is the murderer, it is not meant to place any sort of blame on her for being murderous. Morality is something altogether separate, and I would even say it is false to use it as a narrative. Therefore morality is exempt from the film in my view, and exempt from the analysis of the film. I suppose, however, that when morality and power are thought to be inseparable, the film can be interpreted as saying women are evil.

Thoughts?

4 comments:

Nathan said...

Doesn't the use of power enable us to act on certain values, therefore making it a moral issue? The re-valuation of values is the act of power itself. However, this is not the real issue. If one makes the argument a moral one, it is only done so prima facie. You mentioned a break in communication leading to the confusion of power. The blameworthiness of the women's actions are debatable, however, if language [communication] were no barrier , would there in fact be a moral dilemma and/or a question mark over the women's deceipt?

Acumensch said...

From watching it, it's not clear whether the woman knows she's being deceitful or not. And this is what Nietzsche says as well in BG&E.

It's obvious the man has no idea what she's really proposing, and in that sense it plays on the idea that the men never really know what the woman is up to. Man simply assumes that woman is interested in fulfilling his own desires. But to address your point Nathan, even if there were no language barrier everyone in the film is "immoral" by society's standards. But you helped me come to a realization -

That the woman's only 'fault' is that she takes revenge is an oppressive analysis, and because the argument from morality would simply put her back into her boyfriend's hands, "morality" is itself a substitute for power over the woman.

Nathan said...

"That the woman's only 'fault' is that she takes revenge is an oppressive analysis, and because the argument from morality would simply put her back into her boyfriend's hands, 'morality' is itself a substitute for power over the woman."

Seemingly, the answer is Nietzschean again. The revaluation of morality would possibly cease to oppress he women. Albeit the revaluation shifts to empower the women, nonetheless, she is no longer "morally oppressed." What the revaluation provides is the shifting of a patriarchal morality to, at minimum, at neutral state, or perhaps an amoral state. The Stoics called this adiáphoron: morally indifferent or neutral state. The question now would be, if a morally neutral state is accepted, what action is preferable to take?

I think the murder, if it still came down to it, only need be interpreted as metaphor.

Acumensch said...

The question now would be, if a morally neutral state is accepted, what action is preferable to take?

I really don't like murky situational ethics and all that, yet I think it's all situational, so if I were in her situation, I suppose I would just leave the boyfriend. I wouldn't kill him. Then, yes, I agree that the murder is really just metaphorical. [And because killing is more interesting to do in film :)]