By Hannah Barkhouche
A few weeks ago I went to see the film Lucy. As it was quite a spontaneous trip to the cinema I hadn’t built high expectations for the film, however I had seen the trailer and the concept did interest me. It’s basically about a new drug that allows the brain to use more than the average 10-20% cerebral capacity.
As a whole it was reasonably enjoyable and I did leave with a new found curiosity for the mind and its unknown capabilities as well as a respired awe for how far we have come as a species. But there were a few things that bugged me.
As a feminist in a patriarchal society I have grown accustom to many things – particularly the media – bugging me. Of course if I were to pick out every piece of misogyny or sexism I came across and anger myself over them then life would become unbearable. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be angry about these things just because there’s so much. No, we have a right to be angry and anger is after all necessary as it drives change and in turn fuels the ever closer revolution. Saying this, it is possible and sometimes even vital (for your own mental sanity) to allow for humour in the place of anger – something the inspirational Brigit Christie has mastered.
The first thing that bugged me about Lucy was something easier to find entertaining than enraging at first. It was the fact that a woman nearing 100% cerebral capacity apparently void of all feelings and desires still found it rational to wear a bodycon dress, heels and makeup. Wearing such things isn’t irrational entirely, and it would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise, but surely Lucy would be above any social norms and expectations? Additionally, that attire is just impractical at the best of times but especially when killing almost everyone in your path, being chased by a mafia type group and boarding a long haul flight. But then again, I do only use a measly 10-20% of my brain and so maybe there’s something I’m missing.
However, whilst I did have a little giggle at just how impractical the wardrobe choices were, I did think of the more sinister side. Not many people will have watched the movie and thought that there was anything odd about how the character Lucy dressed. And this is because there wasn’t, not in the movie world. We are used to seeing women and even young girls on the big screen modelled to the Barbie doll ideal. Whatever their roles or talents, female characters’ master statuses reside in how much they fit society’s idea of beauty with everything else being considered secondary. When a woman is a lead in a film such as Lucy, I wish I could rejoice but I feel disheartened when the importance of the role is belittled by crafting it to be nothing more than the prettiest doll on the shelf. And- I am reminded of the young girls growing up watching films and TV shows with the same emphasis on the female characters’ attraction who are made to feel that they are invaluable in society unless they mould and paint themselves to reach an impossible beauty standard. I know that as much as these girls will achieve, in this day and age they will still feel the crushing pressure to look perfect from the inescapable sexism in our media.
The film Lucy cannot of course be blamed for all this. I understand that it is conforming to the expectations of the industry and the audience. Nevertheless, it does not cease to be disappointing and I wish I could simply see women on TV and film who make practical choices (like wearing trainers when running for their lives) not just attractive choices, and who represent the beautiful diversity of our world’s female population.
There was also one line in the film I was surprised to find almost offensive. It is the point at which the scientist played by Freeman begins introducing Lucy to his colleges as “The first woman to…”. I was annoyed because Lucy’s gender had nothing to do with her accomplishment; she was the first person to use over 20% of her cerebral capacity. It was unnecessary to bring gender into it as she had achieved something that no one in the entire population had achieved before, not just something that no female had yet to achieve. I found that the line made her experience seem less remarkable, degrading it by making it seen as though she was the first out of 3, 500, 000,000 (the female population), rather than 7,000,000,000 (the entire population). Historically, men have achieved things before women, but we have moved on and reached a time in which this no longer has to be the case and we understand that women are as capable as men. Whilst a small line in a long film, I felt that it reinforced the idea that woman are always thought to be secondary men and I felt that she should have been celebrated simply as a human being.
Whilst not being a feminist topic on the surface, another thing which bugged me was Lucy’s loss of empathy and altruism throughout the film. As we evolve, I like to believe we collectively become a more moral species – a notion moral relativists would dispute. The thought that as our minds expand our care for others diminishes paints a rather ominous picture of the future. Although I don’t want to think that that is the future we have in store, the concept was thought provoking. When male leads come to obtain powers they usually gain a high sense of morality too and are hailed as heroes, for example Superman, and Spiderman. Whilst I do not want to dig for sexism where it may not be present, Lucy was an entirely selfish character and I understand that she made us contemplate but I cannot help but wish that she could have been a super-heroine.
Admittedly, I have picked apart and exposed the more negative parts of the film because these were the points that I thought about the most, but I did not see the film as entirely negative. On the topic of representation, it was pleasing to see a female lead in a story that wasn’t about a romantic pursuit, and to watch the immensely talented Morgan Freeman play the leading man. Even in the 21st century, it is still unfortunately mainly the white, male actors of the world who are the protagonists of the most successful films.
All in all, it presented a unique story and whilst the amount of killing and violence was a bit extreme for me, Lucy’s journey was a thrilling one to follow and raised many inciting questions about the past, present and future of humanity.