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Born in Flames (1983)
Inspiring and important.
Even almost 20 years after its release, "Born In Flames" retains its sense of urgency and immediacy. This is due both to the energy of the performances, soundtrack and direction and to the fact that most of the women's demands in the film - including equality in the workplace, safety from harrasment and sexual crimes, and equal representation in government - still have not been met.
One of the film's greatest achievements is its representation of the divisions and debates within feminism. The film does not try to offer a single solution or plan of action as a definitive best way forward and so avoids tempting over-simplification of a complex set of issues. Rather than negative or unhelpful, I found this approach incredibly refreshing in a medium rife with happy endings and simple, fictional solutions.
"Born In Flames" doesn't have an answer, but it has many, many questions and many, many voices. These voices and the regular delivery of discourse straight to camera and audience has regularly led to critical disapproval and claims that it is "overly polemical". I don't find "Born in Flames" overly polemical. I don't agree with many of the opinions and strategies given voice and action in the film, but I found the experience of being directly addressed by a female character on issues that are largely invisible in mainstream cinema energising and inspiring. This film won't change the world, but it made me start writing for my fanzine again and get on the phone to my bandmates to get a practice organised. Enough films, debate, writing, and noise, and we'll get somewhere.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
bla bla bla bla, bleeugh.
Like many films of the late 80s & early 90s, Terminator 2 attempts to transform an older version of masculinity - muscled, silent, authoritative, alone - into a new more palatable version that still retains the most important (for patriarchy) principles of the original, but that is more difficult to attack. The new version is communicative, nurturing, sensitive and wise, where the old version was silent, authoritative and alone. Both versions retain their focus on the importance of physical strength, size, independence, confidence and authority.
Thus, the silent Terminator of the first movie becomes more communicative, his language developing and adapting in the interactions with his adoptive 'son'. He develops a sense of humour. He has the ability to learn. The problem with all this is that the basic principles of superior male strength, authority and ability remain in place. Sarah Connor is so busy trying to protect John she has no time to be a mother to him, and this desire to protect is inscribed in an animalistic, instinctual and shrill form that denies any intellectual or spiritual bond with her son. Of course her attempts to protect John put her into direct competition with the Terminator, a competition she can never win given her obviously 'inferior' weaker female body. As a result, the Terminator takes on a maternal as well as a paternal role to John, Sarah having disqualified herself, and relinquished her parental duties to the Terminator as she heads off on a suicide mission. The new masculinity has all bases covered, all gender, sexuality, race and class divisions still in place, and everyone's just as oppressed as they were before white heterosexual male got sensitive.
In conclusion, this movie sucks. You guys should try and see past the special effects to the politics that inform the choices the director and the actors make. This is important.