Friday, August 9, 2013

Is this a Movie Review?: Spring Breakers

What makes a piece of film a feminist issue?  As I put the dvd of Spring Breakers (2012), an R-rated Harmony Korine film of  about a foursome of college girls gone very wild on a spring break trip to Florida, I knew I would be watching it critically, as a feminist.  If I were a Black person interested in Black issues, I think I also would have known in advance to watch the film critically, because the advance press makes one aware that the white characters in the film emulate Black ‘ratchet’ culture, with grills and corn rows.  I knew that watching it was going to be a feminist issue because all the stills show four college girls in bikinis, and lord knows the bikini has always been a gender-political outfit – the automatic sexiness of it creates a lot of opportunity for exploitation.  Anything sexy on a woman can be said to attract the unwanted male gaze, I suppose.  Anyway, I had to put on my thinking cap as I started to watch this film (and also start wishing I didn’t have problems with anxiety, sometimes set off by upsetting movies, because in general, Harmony Korine films are unwatchable to me, as is every Lars Von Trier film besides Melancholia – they give me panic attacks).  What can I say? – I enjoyed it.  It is sort of exploitive of young women, at least in that it shows a whole bunch of titties all the time.  I think this was intended to be an art film with potential for mainstream crossover success because of the big-name movie stars in it, and as an art film, I can’t blame Korine for all the titties, because the artist in me couldn’t help but appreciate all the shots of beautiful women.  Is it sexist or a testament to women that all the girls in the movie were beautiful and almost all the men absolutely disgusting?  -- if it were a female film-maker I probably would have felt it to be empowering, but with a boy behind the camera, it’s sort of hard not to feel like he’s just rubbing it in about the double standard whereby totally ugly men can attract totally beautiful women much more often than the other way around.  In general it feels good to be attractive by average standards and often shitty to be considered unattractive, and no amount of beautiful women to ugly men ratio in Spring Breakers is going to make that less true, so I’ll try not to put the weight of the aesthetic world on Korine’s shoulders – he knows people like to look at beautiful women.  Some of the arty touches felt like affects to me, like the use of often-repeated dialogue, and some of the slow motion.  I like the plot though.  I’ve definitely never seen a film about a group of young women who go down to Florida for spring break and are transformed into blood-hungry criminals.  It’s one of those plot ideas that are so flashily perfect, like, so tantalizing, it almost seems like once you got such a good, fun idea, the story would write itself, though I’m sure it’s not true.  It reminds me of when I read Virgin Suicides – a novel about a family of blonde, Catholic, teenage sisters who all commit suicide.  I felt envious of writer Jeffrey Euginides for having had the idea for the plot, and I felt the same way about Spring Breakers.  I think it could be said that the women in this movie are horrible people and that that in itself makes it a sexist film.  However, if I had to choose between the two extremes of the female protagonists being portrayed as weak and boring OR as crazy and extreme, I prefer that they’re crazy and extreme.  I’d definitely rather a man be scared of me than think he can overpower me.  I’ve been a victim of violent crime, so it was of course impossible for me to get swept up in the excitement of the senseless violence these girls indulge in when they go on their crime spree – it’s fucked up and horrible to put a gun to a stranger’s face for no reason, just because you can, and even though these pretty girls had such cool Pussy Riot-like fashion (cute dresses paired with ski masks) as they committed these crimes, calling out to the aesthetic sense of the Riot Grrrl in me, BIG TIME, I never let myself think “Cool!” during the thrillingly executed scenes of violence – it’s just too amoral to get swept up in (now if it were REVENGE killing … that’s another story).  Nonetheless, I appreciated Korine’s answer to the question “what if a bunch of bikini-clad college girls went crazy from boredom, and turned their white girl fantasies of being ‘gangsta’ into a real thing.”  I also appreciated the twisted sentimentality he wove in to the story, with the strength of the female friendships (they sweetly play with each other's hair as they beg one another not to flee back to the boring safety of home, not wanting to be abandoned by each other), and also, the character of Alien, who off-hand you'd guess to be the antagonist, ends of being pretty much the slave of these girls, when I'd assumed that he was going to pimp them out or brainwash them.  He tells them in the beginning of their group relationship that he's going to protect them and you think "oh no, that means he's going to hurt them," but no, he remains awe-inspired by them, subject to their whims, and protective throughout, and it's kind of sweet.  If I were queen of all and everyone had to do as I say, I wouldn’t let anyone under 17 see this movie, because it’s a study of dangerous nihilism that I’d hate to know any kid has been influenced by.  By the time someone is 17, I think they’ve decided for themselves if they’re going to be a dangerous nihilist.  I also wouldn’t let anyone over 50 see this, unless they were very pop-culture literate, because I think it would give them too much of a reactionary feeling of “These dang young people, with their g-strings and their rap music.”  It is definitely about the something bad inside bored young people, and it’s scary to watch unfold.  Yes, if I were the queen of all, I would only let unimpressionable liberals between 17 and 49 watch this flashy, dub-step, tittie-laden and depressing movie.  

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