Fighting with the Sky

Watchmen 2: Dissecting the Silk Spectres [Movie Monday]

Posted on: September 14, 2009

This post comes from Amanda at The Undomestic Goddess (on Twitter as @TheUndomestic).  Be sure to also check out her feminist projects: The Undomestic 10 interview series and the tumblr This is What a Feminist Looks Like. Last week, Amanda had a guest post about her reactions to Watchmen based on the graphic novel, prior to seeing the movie.  This is her follow-up post featuring her reactions after seeing the movie.

silk spectreI’ve given the women of Watchmen more thought, and having read the critical essays found in Watchmen and Philosophy, have concluded that the novel works towards a new feminism found with Silk Spectre II (aka Laurie), and that Silk Spectre I (Sally) is a mere product of her era – working to join the boys’ club while still milking her feminine sexuality.

First, let us look at Laurie.  Laurie rejects the costume her mother chooses for her, and by the novel’s end, asks for a more pracitcal outfit that protects her, and suggests that she carry a gun (heck yes, bad-asery).  The gun also is a nod to her father, The Comedian, who carried one with his ensemble, which also allows Laurie to make the move toward androgyny where her outfit can no longer be defined as positively male or positively female.  This is ultimately the goal of equality in the sense of the superhero scene: the socialized gender-specific dress is eradicated and what is left are individual with unique skills and abilities.

This differs from Sally, who plays up her femininity to the point of caricature.  Whether she does this purposefully (she did know how to play off her sex appeal to garner publicity for herself…a proto-Julia Allison, perhaps?) or not, the end result of inequality shows in the way her admierers and eve colleauges treat her.  Her fans send her pronos of her, which she finds “flattering,” and which Lauries finds “disgusting.”  To Sally, the success may be the attention, regardless of the platform, while Laurie refuses to compromise herself and is horrifies that her mother allows it (perhapds in this, Laurie is just as stubborn as Rorschach in surrendering principles).

And of course, there is the rape scene.  The Comedian may have a record of abusing women, even gunning down his pregnant Vietnamese lover, but treats Sally, supposedly an equal on the same crime-fighting level, just the same.  Both her and The Hooded Justice feel that Sally was asking for it: The Comedian taunts her for dressing so provocatively, and tells her that she means “No” spelled “Y-e-s,” and The Hooded Justice, after fighting The Comedian off of her, tells her, “For god’s sake, cover yourself!”  Years later, Sally afmits she felt she had a part in bringing the whole thing about.  The movie actually left this line out, and I was actually glad for it, as after 2 and a half hours, there wasn’t enought time to really get into the depth of meaning behind this complicated relationship between Sally and The Comedian.  Instead, Sally says to Laurie, “I could never stay mad at him [The Comedian] because he gave me you.”  Aw.  Tie a ribbon on it, we’re done.

But in the novel, things are not packaged so neatly.  Sally and The Comedian have another sexual encounter, this time consensual.  Is this love?  Is this a complicated victimized feeling confused as love?  We are given few answeres, and that may very well be the point.  In a later scene, we see how deeply The Comedian feels for Laurie, his daughter, and yet Sally still yells furiously at him.  As readers/viewers, we are torn; we feel for The Comedian’s exclusion from family life, but cannot forvie him for his past assault and attempted rap.  And this is precisely the point of the novel; none of the characters are neither all good nor all evil, and therein lies the dilemma of who or what can be considered moral and/or heroic.

But again, we are left with “a feminist hope” in Laurie to usher in a new wave of female superheroes.  I was pleased that Zac Snyder only had her cry ONCE in the movie, at a very pivotal scene, and she holds her own in every fight scene (I suppose she does this in the book as well, but it was clearer to me in the film).  She also has a realization halfway through the novel to suddenly take life on her own terms; all her life she had played puppet to her motehr living out her own superhero fantaises through her, then she was kept around by the government to keep Dr. Manhattan “happy” (aka laid), and by the novel’s end, she’s with Dan, the second Nite Owl, under ner names so that her mother doesn’t even recognize her (a very clear claim of independence), and as mentioned before, talks about changing up her costume so that she can fight crime more effectively and practically (atta girl).  I feel safe knowing that feminism rests in her hands.

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1 Response to "Watchmen 2: Dissecting the Silk Spectres [Movie Monday]"

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Laura. Laura said: Check out this awesome guest post from @TheUndomestic about Watchmen for Movie Monday! http://bit.ly/1tdldb […]

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