Man oh man, what is Frank Miller’s fascination with male genital mutilation?
Yes, Sin City was exactly what I expected: heaping lumps of testosterone-soaked sexism portrayed in visually interesting ways. What I didn’t expect was how often my husband and I laughed at the overwrought voiceovers. I hated the text, but I enjoyed the film. Although when it was over, he asked me if I’d seen A Clockwork Orange. I said yes, why? He responded that this felt like what Malcolm McDowell had to watch with his eyes propped open in order to desensitize him.
Conveniently, since they cast for appearance, most of the characters speak in monotone, which means that those whose acting skills are rather limited still look good. I also had a hard time adjusting to the extreme black-and-white in one small way: the blood looked a lot like marshmallow creme oozing out of the many wounds.
Treated straight, this is a fantasy for the kind of people I don’t want to think about dealing with; if you ignore the messages, though, it’s the most faithful translation of a comic to film ever. For both good and bad.
Getting to the politics, Sequential Tart seems the obvious venue to post a critical, insightful article about how women are portrayed in Sin City. Sadly, their Spotlight On … Sinfully Sweet, Sexy & Strong isn’t it. Let’s count the errors, shall we? (Many spoilers ahead.)
There’s grammatical/stylistic: “most of the women are prostitutes, a two-bit waitress at a strip club, or an exotic dancer.” I’m still not sure how to best fix that phrasing, but I know that most women can’t be *an* exotic dancer, unless we’re talking about one of those sci-fi monsters where a bunch of people get mashed together.
There’s factual: “the women are the ones who stand strong in the end.” Well, no, actually, the movie closes with a deceitful woman not knowing that she’s about to get killed. Most of the women’s stories don’t even have an end, since they’re rescued and sent off to who knows where while the stories close on the death of the men.
There’s well-meaning but wrong: “the women fight through prejudices and pre-conceived notions of their roles in the world and show the men what they are made of.” Unless we’re being literal, in which case “showing the men what they’re made of” is sadly true, what with the blood and cannibalism. And speaking of prejudice, don’t even get me started on how stereotypical the silent, petite-but-deadly ninja girl is. She’s enjoyable to watch, but she’s definitely a relic of a particular era in comics.
The writer seems to have misunderstood most of the stories. She doesn’t seem to grasp that the Old Town victory is temporary, one last spit in the face of the coming destruction (as are all of the other stories). She describes Carla Gugino’s character as “get[ting] through her situation with dignity and bravery,” apparently missing that the character gets mutilated and killed because she betrayed the main male character.
She concludes by describing Nancy as “strong beyond a doubt” and demonstrating “the true themes of love and strength”. Nancy is faithful, certainly, but Nancy is mostly an object to be watched, dragged around, and fought over. She doesn’t do anything to save herself except not screaming, that is, remaining silent. As most of the women in these stories are.
In short, a terribly broken essay. I expect better from the Tarts.
Here’s the part of Sin City I’m left pondering, though: Hartigan refuses to sleep with the adult Nancy. Instead, he’s attacked in his cold shower by the bad guy, which culminates in the deaths of both. If he’d chosen the sex over the violence, might things have worked out better for everyone?
Probably not, given the writer, but I thought it was an interesting fork in the road. When given the choice, take the nookie.