Women in Post Apocalyptic movies

(47 Posts)
davina25 Sun 13-Oct-13 16:34:58

Hello.

I am writing a paper on the role and negative view of women in Post Apocalyptic movies.

I will mainly be focusing on how often the fall of modern society leads to a strictly patriarchal world in which a woman's only role is often reduced to being traded for sex, or cleaning blood off the husbands rags after a day of hunting in the deserted wastelands (I exaggerate but not by much).
I will be looking at many films including 'The Book of Eli', '28 days later', 'Children of Men', 'The Road' and several others (some of which support and some that contradict reduced female roles in in A-P world)

I was hoping to hear some opinions and listen to what people think on the subject. Do A-P films take a step backwards on the progress made by women in a world of patriarchal cinema?
Any links or references would be a great help.

Many thanks smile

eurochick Sun 13-Oct-13 16:42:14

I've often noticed this.

I suspect it has something to do with going back to a society where physical strength counts for more than it does in our world with motorised transport, supermarket food and so on.

But then cinema generally isn't great for showing women in a positive role, post-apocalyptic or not!

deepfriedsage Sun 13-Oct-13 16:45:00

Men are generally physically stronger. I would prefer not to fight zombies personally.

davina25 Sun 13-Oct-13 16:57:42

Completely agree about showing women in a positive light no matter the genre (obvious exceptions excluded).

So would you say that superior strength be the defining factor in surviving in a post apocalyptic world? I think this is the case in most films made, wherein strength is essential to fight back the zombies or break through a wall to get inside a locked building for food, but these situations are thought and filmed by a very male driven hollywood. Cinemas representation of the A-P is not necessarily what could occur and strength might not be the winning factor. One might see A-P films as a barbaric fantasy where basic male attributes are superior and can overcome and control females in a society.
Any thoughts on this?

eurochick Sun 13-Oct-13 17:28:49

I think it's a lack of creativity in some ways. Post-apocalyptic societies go backwards in terms of some bits of our civilisation no longer being there. If you go back in time to before we developed those bits, society was pretty misogynistic.

DadWasHere Sun 13-Oct-13 23:51:26

But the apocalypse can be almost anything and thus so can the context of women in it. Tina Turner as the ass-kicking leader of Barter Town in Beyond Thunderdome or settings like The Road where humanity confronts its impending extinction and women, being physically weaker, are mostly prey to be raped, killed and eaten even though a few still project great strength of mind.

I read a sci-fi years ago where the ratio of males to females drastically altered, there were fewer and fewer male births over time. Society had transformed to be run and dominated by women and men were on the outer. In context it made perfect sense. In fact a declining male birth rate is what’s actually happening in the real world right now due to factors science is still trying to figure out.

I think you have chosen a very difficult thing to write a balanced paper on, because P-A mixes speculative fantasy with speculative reality, which adds a superposition of having to judge whether the movie is intended as one or the other or a blend of both and whether it makes reasonable sense in context. If you had chosen, say, the roles of women in monster movies, it would be placed square within a speculative-fantasy boundary separate from future imagined reality.

DanglingChillis Sun 13-Oct-13 23:58:05

What about The Hunger Games? Just watched Warm Bodies and the main women were fighting the zombies in that (admittedly most of the soldiers were men but the minor female characters we just missing rather than in a supportive role).

TBH the problem isn't with the genre, it's with film generally. My first question would be what is the evidence that PA films are worse than, e.g. medical dramas.

furfuraceousfuslug Mon 14-Oct-13 00:50:09

I haven't seen it yet, but How I Live Now may be better. The book, by Meg Rosoff, was a great read.

In terms of books, take a look at Sarah Hall's "The Carhullan Army", which certainly bucks the trend. I have heard Sarah interviewed and she is great - she has just won Radio 4's Short Story competition. If I were you, I would be contacting her and picking her brains. Maybe she could do an MN webchat. That would be fab. There are many of us MNers who love post apocalyptic fiction.

furfuraceousfuslug Mon 14-Oct-13 00:51:42

The power of fertility is of course often recognised, eg in Children of Men.

furfuraceousfuslug Mon 14-Oct-13 00:58:23

Carhullan Army

I'm not the author, honest! grin Big fan, though.

The only woman that came to mind from your title was Sarah Connor

And in 1984, she rocked

As did Sigourneys character in Alien

Those films are really important compared to the modern dumbed down films your talking about

GoshAnneGorilla Algeria Mon 14-Oct-13 12:03:06

Aside from the power dynamics, I Ind it annoying that women in these films look suspiciously well groomed. No straggly eyebrows ever!

evilgiraffe Mon 14-Oct-13 12:08:59

I was just about to suggest How I Live Now, furfur! It's a beautifully crafted film, although not strictly post-apocalyptic, I suppose. It's even more refreshing because children/teenagers are portrayed as real people with personalities and preferences which is so often not the case.

I also agree with Laurie regarding Sarah Connor in Terminator and Terminator 2^; and Ellen Ripley in ^Alien and Aliens (also Newt and Vasquez in Aliens).

Those are all good films, with some excellent female characters who are not automatically shoved into the "helpless" box. Sadly, they're all notable at least in part because they're so unusual. There is a disappointingly large number of "men are heroes, women are extras" type films, though, even some very good ones. I've not seen the film, but The Day of the Triffids is a good example of a male-centric post-apocalyptic story. It would probably be easier to find examples of misogynistic action films though, as limiting yourself to post-apocalyptic only is quite restrictive.

MrsGeologist Mon 14-Oct-13 12:13:07

Men, Women and Chainsaws: gender in modern horror film by Carol Clover might be a worth a read. Obviously it's about horror, but it think there is some crossover.

BuffytheAppleBobber Mon 14-Oct-13 15:08:40

It's a chicken-egg question, I think. I'm not sure I agree with those who've said that it's because PA films take us back to a time when physical strength was most important for survival, ergo men must take leading roles.

These film ideas tend to come from the minds of, well, men. Many of whom do seem to feel instinctively that the Evo-Psych assumption that male dominance flowed naturally from their greater physical strength is true. So, they construct stories that fit these ideas.

You didn't say what level of study your essay is for, but I'd be inclined to suggest looking at the writers, producers and directors of the films you're interested in to look for clues about their views on men, women, feminism and society. If you're degree / masters level you will probably get into social constructions of reality with this line of thinking.

Hope that's useful.

BuffytheAppleBobber Mon 14-Oct-13 15:09:45

Oh, reading your OP you've said you're writing a paper, not an essay as my brain had registered on first reading. I hope I haven't stated the bleeding obvious with my last post blush

coldwinter Mon 14-Oct-13 16:07:04

These films start from the idea that physical strength is the most important thing with survival. And that actually isn't true. Humans survived and spread not because of our physical strength, there are lots of animals stronger than us, but because of our brains.

And of course, many men are not that strong. They are fat, or old, or unfit. And some women are strong and fit.

And in post apocalyptic films, it is rarely lack of stregth that leads to people being killed. It is often stupid mistakes.

I think women would be more vulnerable post apocalypse. But this is because I suspect they would be the ones trying to look after their children. And children who cry, are slow, etc, are always going to be more vulnerable. Films rarely show this.

PiratesLifeForMe Mon 14-Oct-13 16:15:01

The women in The Walking Dead seem to do as much zombie killing as the men..

coldwinter Mon 14-Oct-13 16:17:51

Yes they do. But the young boy is still portrayed as more capable than most of the adult women. And the young girl who was eaten by zombies - the same age as the boy - was shown as pathetic. She could have easily outran the zombie.

PiratesLifeForMe Mon 14-Oct-13 16:42:30

Hmm I don't think the boy is shown as more capable than some of the adult women, I think it's more that they are showing that he has to be as capable despite being young. I'm watching season 3 at the moment and can't really think of anyone who is being shown as weak.

I dont remember the girl being shown as pathetic but if she was, was it because she was a girl or because she was a child? Not all kids would be stepping up as hard and kickass in the face of zombies..

coldwinter Mon 14-Oct-13 16:45:57

When they go out on raids, the boy has gone out, Laurie has been the only woman, and other woman have stayed with the old man somewhere safe.

Both the girl and boy were about the same age. She was killed when any child should have been able to easily run away.

OptimisticPessimist Mon 14-Oct-13 16:54:13

I was going to bring up Walking Dead too, although the OP specifically says movies so I don't know if TWD can be used.

As regards to Carl/Sophia - I don't think it anything to do with one being a girl and one being a boy, it was to with their parents. They wanted to kill one of the children, they didn't want to kill off the child of the main protagonist (the relationship between Rick and Carl is an important ongoing plot point), the death of Sophia was a major drive forward for Carol's (and Daryl's) character. I think that if the character of Sophia had been male they would have followed the same storyline.

I do have some issues with how TWD portrays women (Lori/Andrea in particular - the characters themselves were fine but I think they were portrayed wrongly, iyswim. Plus there was some pretty unfair fan backlash on both of them) and (trying not to spoil S3/S4) there was a particular incident in S3 that happened to a woman but all the aftermath was seen from the POV of her male partner which I found frustrating. They do have some great female characters though - Michonne, Maggie, Sasha and Carol are all really positive. The only one that's a bit more difficult is Beth because of her lack of screen time - but I do think that not all characters, male or female, should necessarily be "strong" because not all people are. So even if Beth is classed as a weak character (which is debatable) that's not necessarily a bad thing.

OptimisticPessimist Mon 14-Oct-13 16:57:19

It's a fairly even split going out on raids I'd say - Maggie goes on them all the time. And plenty of people die on TWD when they "should" have been able to get away - male and female. It only takes one misstep and you can get bitten, it's basically the premise of the show. We never see exactly what happens to Sophia - she may well have run into another walker while running from the first.

coldwinter Mon 14-Oct-13 16:58:28

Perhaps it is better in Series 3. I haven't seen that. It isn't the case in Series one and two.

PiratesLifeForMe Mon 14-Oct-13 17:04:43

Ok well I guess we're coming from different places on this one but to be fair, Andrea, Maggie and Michonne are all getting out there on raids which only really leaves Carol & the younger girl back at base, often along with the boy.

I think there are plenty of films & series where women come off as weak & helpless, I was pleased to see that (in my opinion) walking dead had a good balance - appreciate that that's only my perception of course! smile

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