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Sucker Punch is the new movie from Zak Snyder, receiving divisive reactions from audiences. No doubt it’s eye candy (the girls and the effects) – but that’s also the point (not the effects so much here). The most simplified version of the plot is this: A young woman, whose mother and sister have just died, is committed to a mental institution by her evil step-father, who pays extra money to a sleazy orderly to have her lobotomized on her fifth day in the asylum. When she arrives at the asylum, she hears the orderly talking to her step-father, learning of the pending lobotomy and her limited time. In order to survive, she and four others band together and fight in a fantasy world.

However, there’s a lot going on in this movie. From the opening, with a haunting cover of “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)” by Emily Browning, who plays Baby Doll, the woman sent to a mental institution by her abusive step-father. The opening makes it clear that Baby Doll (as here on out referred to as BD) is sexually abused by her step-father, and it’s likely that her younger sister is also. BD, and the other girls in the asylum, also are abused at the hands of the orderly, Blue (Oscar Isaac), and his scheme of having men come to the asylum and pay to have sex with the girls.

The girls (Sweet Pea [SP], Rocket, Blondie, and Amber) don’t trust BD at first, until Rocket (SP’s younger sister) tells them how BD saved her from being raped by the cook. They all follow BD’s plan to get four items in order for all of them to escape together, which leads to the fantasy world (or the second level of the fantasy world, really, as the asylum has transferred to a brothel in a narrative shift – kinda beating you over the head with the fact these girls are being raped. Snyder was told he was being too subtle.).

In these scenes of fantasy – which arguably could be escapist coping mechanisms for when the girls are being raped or otherwise abused – the girls are dressed in skimpy clothing, which has lead to people saying, from the first promotional picture released, that this was just another action flick that exploited a woman’s sexuality.  Nope, sorry. Try again.

Try this: It’s a fantasy, it’s an escape from a horrible act being committed against you, you’ve escaped to this place where you’re the one in power. You’re the one calling the shots, you’re the one who’s invincible, the one who’s in control, the one who’s using your sexuality and the power it has over men in order to process and deal with what’s happening to you – without losing your mind. Snyder is absolutely right, “the action doesn’t exploit the girls, the girls exploit the action.”

Unfortunately, with some of the girls (mainly Amber and Blondie), the character development isn’t just there. A post on the IMDB board asked, “How would you describe the girls, not using any of their physical characteristics?” Adhering to that, I’m at a loss of how to describe Amber. She just has no substance. Blondie, at least, you can describe, though limitedly. She’s loves the weaponry, insecure and vulnerable. Not much there. The other three girls at least have character. SP is stubborn, the leader/mother type (Rocket is her little sister, who ran away from home and SP followed to make sure she stayed safe), fiercely loyal. Rocket is an idealist, headstrong, impulsive, trusting and compassionate.

Then there’s Baby Doll.

She has character; she’s intelligent, creative, determined, altruistic, and protective. But she’s also incredibly aware of the things and situations around her. Of the sexualization of the characters, it’s probably the mostly heavily focused on BD. The blonde pigtails, the schoolgirl-ish outfit, the pouty lips. It’s the typical male fantasy.

Make no mistake, these are young women who are FIGHTING back. They’re being oppressed, abused, objectified. But they’re using some of that to their advantage and doing something about it. They’re not sitting in a crazy corner crying about it – even if it’s just in their minds (which is all they have), they’re in a place where they can fight back. Why should it be wrong for a woman to use sexuality as a weapon when her own sexuality is being used against her, being used to punish her?

Also, the actors are objectified. But that’s the point. Did I enjoy it? Yes because I was able to put myself there, tell myself that’s what I should have done, fought back in any way I could – even if it was only in my mind. It would at least be something,  give me some power back.

Sucker Punch isn’t a real fluffy popcorn flick on anything more than the surface. It’s not what you’re going to be expecting, and a lot of people aren’t really liking it because it gets to you and sticks with you, whether you wanted it to or not. And for a lot of the audience, who were expecting something different, they were sucker punched by the film (the pun is intentional, like the title of the movie).

~*~ Greenlee

Check out these other articles! (spoilers in some)

*~*~* More Than Girl Power
*~*~* Sucker Punch: Part One – What Everyone’s Talking About ….. Sucker Punch: Part Two – Women, Weapons and Self-Sacrifice
*~*~* A Defense of the Movie
*~*~* I Like Kicking Ass in High Heels, That Doesn’t Mean I’m a Bad Feminist
*~*~* There’s a Buffy Reference: Are You Surprised?
*~*~* Sucker Punch and Mainstream Feminism
*~*~* In conclusion, I Stand By My “It’s Inception but A Lot Less Dull and About Misogyny” Assessment
*~*~* The Problem Isn’t Zak Snyder. It’s You
*~*~* Slash Film: Uncovering Zak Snyder’s Method of Madness