On Friday a friend of mine invited me to see Sucker Punch. Being a total dork, and having not seen the dude in a while, I jumped at the chance. And boy was that a good decision. I never expected it to be such a kickass feminist movie.
A little synopsis: After accidentally killing her sister in an attempt to defend against an attack by her stepfather, a young girl is locked away in a mental institution. Suddenly, she finds herself being forced to work in a brothel and dance in a burlesque show. When she is forced to dance in rehearsal, the music transports her to a fantasy realm where she is told how to escape to freedom. She is given weapons and fights a bunch of huge beasts, before her consciousness returns to the dance studio. Her fight for freedom becomes even more desperate when she realizes she will lose her virginity to a rich patron of the club.
It was easy to examine this movie through the lens of Marxist Feminism. It didn't take long for me to realize that all pretty much all the people in power - the people at the institution, the people running the brothel, and the stepfather - were all men. There is one exception, the female dance teacher, who could very well symbolize women who work with men to oppress other women in order to gain power. The girls had one male ally, who helped them gain the tools to escape. The patients in the institution, as well as those forced to work and dance in the club, are young women. These women have to perform in burlesque shows, have sex with male patrons, clean the facility, and work in the kitchen, without any pay and all for the benefit of their male captors. At one point, a girl was sexually assaulted by the cook. This world the protagonist finds herself in is a vivid manifestation of the patriarchy, where women's place is literally on stage, in the bedroom, and in the kitchen. The young women fight in a fantasy realm, one that seems as though it would usually belong to men, and it is there that they physically fight for their freedom (in some amazing and visually stunning action sequences, mind you).
In terms of intersectionality theory, or the theme of race, the main characters were all white. True, in the group of girls fighting to escape, there were two nonwhite girls, but they were usually (literally) on the periphery of whatever was going on. The main character was very pale, and the girls she worked with the most were also white. I also couldn't help but notice that the Asian girl was always the one operating high-tech machinery in the fight sequences.
It is worth mentioning that the girls were all young, slender, attractive, and usually scantily clad. However, this was mostly within the context of the brothel and burlesque, and while they did wear heels and skirts while they were fighting, it wasn't overt sexualization. I didn't see sexy girls doing glorified sexy fighting, I saw five girls kicking some serious ass and brutally slaying their enemies. Yes, it was violent - very violent. These girls didn't earn their freedom through sit-ins and asking to be let go, they fought. It's a fantasy action movie, what do you expect? I was okay with it, hopefully that doesn't disqualify me from being a "real" feminist. And of course, the movie was made by men, maybe to some people that makes it not a feminist movie. But to me, I saw a crapton of feminism in this movie and I highly recommend it to both nerds and feminists.