So Elysium is a movie about social inequality, yet it’s almost all-male. Oops. Funny how they just can’t get that right, isn’t it. Well no not funny. That’s not the word.
Just one question then, isn’t it ironic that a film about segregation contains only one fully-rounded female character, and even that role was originally written as male?
Ironic? No, not really, not at this point. By now it’s just abjectly contemptible. Catch the fuck on, will you?
Blomkamp set out to write a film with “at least one central female character”, not an overly revolutionary aspiration in a film about equality. Elysium has a central unromanticised female character, but one that was only switched to female when “it suddenly occurred to him the character could be a woman”. Like the heroines of Salt and Flightplan, this role is strong partly because it was written to be a character before it was rewritten to be female.
Ripley in Alien is another (and then she was made more womany, that is more conventional, in the sequels). If they write them as women they seem to think they have to make them specifically woman-like, whereas men are just people. This drives me batty.
This is a film that sets out to teach an anti-segregation message and still failed the Bechdel test, which checks that at least two women in a film talk to each other about anything other than a man. We’re used to seeing films with only token female characters, and tests like the Bechdel help alert us to what we’ve stopped noticing, if not when we stopped noticing them.
Notice. Notice notice notice. It’s so fatally easy not to.
Whether it is done as intentionally as in Elysium or not, films and TV series form part of a lens that shows us distorted refractions of our world, that shapes the way we think, that reinforces and ideally challenges our values. If I’m shown a world with one central woman in it, I should notice. I should be surprised. I should not be impressed, I should be disappointed. As Pryor said, perhaps it is time we got on with making our own movies. Then we’d be in them.
And we’d be people. Just people. Like anyone.