Saturday, August 20, 2016
Martians and me
Okay. So this is not an exact likeness of Matt Damon as 'The Martian' but it's close enough. You get the general idea of a dude stranded alone on a planet of orange aura and none too happy about it, the essence of Damon's martian. This dude seems perhaps a little more prepared for life on Mars than Damon was, though Damon did quite well to survive for many hundreds of days (I lost count) considering he would die instantly if exposed to the atmosphere. This guy's skin seems a little thicker.
But my problem with the film is not that Damon's character is not a realistic martian. He is not meant to be. He is meant to be a realistic man stranded on a planet where nothing grows, for hundreds of days, because the commander of his spaceship, a woman, left him for dead, having been ordered to do so by another woman back on planet Earth. This is my problem.
This gender distribution of labour is neither realistic nor progressive, though it appears to be trying, which somehow makes it worse. In 2015-16 we are trying to improve the representation of men and women in film and other art forms, or so we say, but we are not succeeding and if anything, are making matters worse.
The Martian is a classic example. It is so obvious that the female characters are added as a clunky affirmative action afterthought, with roles that are not only secondary but stupid and, of course, sexual. Meanwhile, there is an endless list of male characters, from Damon down, strutting their stuff, being heroes against all odds, wielding real power and generally saving the day, to make up for the original mistake made by the female characters.
I think we should, and could have done better. Never mind that the film is based on a book with a male lead. Many films are and end up looking nothing like the book. It can be done, the author still gets paid. And The Martian, though an okay film in other respects about a fairly neat concept of a human left behind on the orange planet, could have been a great film if 'the martian' had been a woman left behind by a male commander to fend for herself, a truer to life scenario after all. Men leave women to clean up the shit way more than women leave men. And women are pretty good at dealing with the shit they're left with -- they've had a LOT of practice -- as well as being keen gardeners.
Ridley Scott of all directors should have known better. Ripley made Ridley and gave us all hope of cinema to come that doesn't assume, as all religions and cultures do, that men are primary and women are secondary, stupid and sexual, if not sinful. The Martian reverts, despite it's apparent efforts, to pre-Alien gender stereotypes and perhaps that's what this alien here is so pissed off about. Perhaps this alien is a She. Now there's a concept for a film.