August 7, 2008

Guest Post: Feminist Mom Approved by Rachel Feldman

A few days before my 12-year-old son left for sleep-away camp, we wanted to do something special so we treated ourselves to a double feature of Journey To The Center Of The Earth and The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

As a professional filmmaker, I absorb a film with a complex set of eyes, but when I watch with my son, the feminist mom in me dominates, and I can’t help but evaluate the experience as a woman raising a boy who will become a man.

There is a lot of talk in our culture about the impact of sex and violence in the media on our children. For me, issues of vulgarity and misogyny are far more important. The way a woman is depicted in a story and how men treat her are more relevant to me than the wielding of guns or the expression of desire. I want my son to grow up with an image of women as powerful creatures who are equals, not side-kicks, enablers or fluff girls.

I didn’t have high expectations for either film, so I was surprised to see that both films depicted women in extraordinary ways, without nary a bimbo in sight.

In Journey, the character of Hannah, played by Anita Briem, is smart and tough. She is the physically adept one; the powerful one who guides the journey. She rows the boat, she runs the train, she knows the way, and the guys trust her confidence absolutely. She wears little make-up has un-enhanced body parts and is beautiful in a completely organic, natural way.

Of course, my son’s pleasure of the film focused on the action and adventure, but I was delighted to see a woman depicted in a mainstream Hollywood film characterized in such an enlightened fashion. I would imagine that having a writer like Jennifer Flackett would have helpful in creating such a progressive character, but however she got there, I was happy.

Overall, I didn’t think The Mummy was as good as Journey but I was thrilled to see three solid female characters who play characters pivotal to the plot in the genre where women traditionally play secondary roles.

Maria Bello plays Brendan Fraser’s wife. There are a few moments where she used her feminine whiles in a clich├ęd manner, but by in large, this talented woman is multifaceted with a successful career, marriage and family life. She is the model of a woman I approve of. I very much enjoyed my son seeing a marriage that was full of fun and fire.

Michelle Yeoh plays an ancient wise-woman whose power ultimately vanquished the evil force of the Dragon Emperor. She sacrifices her immortality for supreme good, and is another example of an older woman full of grace, dignity and strength.

Isabella Leong plays her dutiful, warrior daughter. She is a great fighter who can wield a sword while falling in love. She does not suffer fools gladly, and fights demons fearlessly.

All in all for an afternoon of popcorn fluff, these two films surprisingly, showed my son some strong female characters. My son enjoyed them, and so did his feminist mom.

Rachel Feldman is a screenwriter and film director who lives and works in Hollywood. She has lived with her college boyfriend for 30 years and is the mother of a 20 year old daughter and a 12 year old son.