I have just recently seen the highly acclaimed war drama movie “The Hurt Locker”. I was both excited and nervous about watching the movie – exited because it was the movie that finally got a woman director an Oscar and a Bafta award for “Best Director” and because it one of the few – only one, to my knowledge, but I might be mistaken – movies about war made by a woman. Nervous because I was little worried about the violence. But after watching the whole two hour movie all I felt was utter disappointment. Disappointment in how over-the-top macho and overly romantic about “manliness” it was. This was the movie that finally got a woman an Oscar – not because it was any better than tons of other movies made by women, but because this was the movie where the woman director desperately is trying to be “male” while directing.
“The Hurt Locker” tells the story about three soldiers whose jobs are to disarm bombs. The war that this movie portrays is Iraq, so as you may guest all the soldiers are Americans – and men, even if everybody knows American women are fighting in Iraq as well. While two of these soldiers, Sanborn and Eldridge, like keep it safe the third one named James likes to take risk and break the rules. He does anything possible to disarm bombs, even if it means possible not surviving the mission. Now, this movie was said to have a critical view of this James guy. But it doesn’t. As he recklessly pulls out trick after trick while out on a mission, the movie strangely shows him as a hero. He is portrayed as brave and talented, someone who always gets the job done right. One particular scene that bothered me was when a colonel comes to talk to the soldiers. He praises James, talks about what a brilliant guy he is, a true soldier etc. Then we get to know how many bombs he has disarmed: eight hundred and seventy three. So he gets his tap on the back from the colonel and the viewer has to just simply accept the fact that this real man who takes wild risks while disarming bombs has succeeded over eight hundred times – and NOBODY has gotten hurt ever?! Give me a break. The movie after that starts to little by little romanticizing James as an action hero. He gets out of line, does the bad boys talk but in the end saves the day. Yay…
In the end of the movie, we get to see James at home with his live-in girlfriend and baby son. He is shown only being able to talk about the war. He gives a speech to his son where he talks about things “you love in life” and how when you are a small child you love everything, but when you get older you love much fewer things. You might even only love one or two things. He then states that for him it is only one thing. And the next scene – the final scene – is him back in Iraq for another year, going to disarm a bomb. The music being over dramatic and “courageous” gives you the feeling that we’re supposed to feel his bravery. At this point you feel furious – a woman director showing us that men who leave their family just to go off to wars are not messed up. No, no, they’re just brave! So, Bigelow, you mean that… that real men want to be out in war? That men that are “truly” that “brave” are special? Wow. Talk about old-fashioned gender roles! Macho Culture is just booming out through this movie.
It is offensive to me that only by making a movie about men being obsessed with danger and therefore being “heroic” a women can finally win an academy award for directing. They might as well say: “Female directors aren’t really that interesting, unless, of course, they try to copy macho men directors and spin stories where everybody important is a man”. Even if I am happy that a woman finally got an Oscar, I still think it was just because it didn’t feel like they (jury of the awards) were giving it to a woman. More like a tough guy in drag. It is not like truly great films haven’t been made by women. There are plenty! I think the academy award should explain a few things to me, like how come Jane Campion has never won an Oscar for directing one of her movies? Not only has she done highly acclaimed movies but also she has been doing movies since 1989. Also, why did they not give the Oscar to Sofia Coppola in 2003 for “Lost in Translation”? I know that the last “Lord of the rings” movie came out the same year, but frankly it doesn’t justify anything for me. Coppola deserved it more! (And the best LotR movie was the first one). But it might be that Campion is to feministic (female!) and Coppola too cleaver (a woman unbelievably creative? Never!). Bigelow however was just right with her male chauvinism. And it was chauvinism – for not a single woman soldier was even shown for one second in the film. Even if Bigelow did mention in her speech: “…To the brave men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan…” I can understand why Bigelow ignored the subject of female soldiers. She would have had to show how badly the American male soldiers harass and unfortunately do too often rape the women, destroying all chance of portraying them as brave manly soldiers. The American media itself doesn’t talk too much about the dangers due to the fact that it is a) an ugly truth about the soldiers views on humans b) not a good way to get women to sign up for the war.
Well, no matter what, I can’t escape the truth that I was very glad when Bigelow won the Oscar. And still am. For at least this might encourage more women to make more movies. And maybe this might be the beginning to the whole world to start appreciating female directors.
This means I expect Jane Campion to win an Oscar for the next movie she makes! No excuses will be allowed that time, Hollywood, none!