Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Quasi-Feminist Reading of Weird Science

Okay for most of today I've been going bonkers about Hackers ideas but if I haven't made it clear enough what sparked that was the possibility of a Weird Science remake. For those of you don't know Weird Science is a 1985 John Hughes movie about two nerds who through the power of technology. (Beat) Go with it. Create the woman of their dreams.

In an earlier blog post I said that done wrong this could be one of the most misogynistic movies ever written but Hughes managed it. Then as I usually do after I say my opinion on the internet. Cough insecurity cough. I searched the web for validation and low and behold. A lot of feminists hate this movie.

And as I often do I now decide to be contrary on the internet.

Before I continue let me say I am a guy. So yeah take that how you will. And furthermore as alluded to I can see how someone could say that Lisa is a magical sex object. My argument comes from the fact that I think she is by far one of the least submissive female characters in film history.

Okay. First let's start with this this. The idea of creating a woman is old. Really old. Like ancient Greek old. A classic tale that gets retold again. And again, and again and again and again is the story of Pygmalion. A dude basically creates a statue it comes to life and they fall in love.

Weird Science is basically that with computers and magic powers in the '80s. My point with all of that is is that if you want to pick apart Weird Science as being anti-feminist you kind of have to look at all those other stories. And for the record oh god have they been.  You can write a doctoral thesis on this type of thing and plenty of research has been done but I'm too lazy for that and come on I want to stick to  contemporary "popular" culture for now. Not story archetypes and cultural psycology bladdy bladdy baddy blah.

So why do I think this movie fits somewhat into feminism. I mean Lisa, our Galetea, is designed to be and somewhat is a sex object. The male gaze follows Kelly LeBrock around like well the male gaze.  Okay I will admit I am in no way qualified to discuss third wave feminism and sex positivity so I'll point you to some literature.

Beyond that why do I feel Lisa is a somewhat feminist protagonist. Because she drives the show. Literally. Gary and Wyatt our two male leads are more or less left on the sideline curled up into tiny balls for the majority of the movie, while she drives almost every major joke or plot point after her creation including a boozed up Anthony Michael Hall who thinks he's black. Yes as black man I will admit that joke is a little racist but damn that voice coming out of that mouth with that cigar is hilarious. He goes from "Lisa I don't think we belong here. " to

Lisa is portrayed as a being that is benevolent, yet completely and totally chaotic. Throughout the entire movie the guys are pretty much going "God oh God what have we done!" Because Lisa does things for the most part on her own terms. Again she does try to help the guys out but it's never portrayed as servitude. Quite the opposite there are times in the movie where she gets downright wrathful even with them. To use less academic references she's basically The Cat In The Hat, but with sex appeal and Wild Turkey. 

And this is what I'm talking about. People always viewed Lisa in the movie and out as being nothing but a flirtatious genie cough bimbo cough, but she's more than that. She is a flirtatious trickster genie. God I love a good trickster.

By the way if my admiration of Lisa's brains hasn't been made clear one of the the reasons why I love the trickster archetype is that they tend to raise the average IQ of any cast by 50 points, partially by skewing the curve and partially by forcing the writers to make other characters smarter just to keep up.
Yeah you can make the argument that she's still "serving the boys" here. But well she is probably the most important character, arguably the protagonist and generally you want them to be, "likable". And I know you're saying but Miles you're assigning her a role. My response: It's fiction. Every character has a role. And the role of likeable protagonist would be necessary regardless of her gender, especially considering omnipotence. She's too powerful to make her anymore "self motivated" and make the story work. At that point the boys would have to actively work against her rather than literally hide in a closet. It might make for an interesting story though.

And as I tried to make clear she is smarter than just about any other character in the story. You know, now that I'm thinking of it I kind of do want to see what happens with an evil Lisa. X-files Season 7 Episode 21.

Where was I. Right, Lisa is a good... well benevolent genie. In an almost sisterly manner she wants what's best for the boys, but she's just not going to give it to them on silver platter especially when they aren't far enough along in their character development to really understand what she is giving them is the self confidence to have fun and stand up for themselves. Teach a man to fish yada yada yada. More over her agenda isn't just about the guys. She also really wants to have fun and gets annoyed when the guys won't get over themselves enough to let the good times roll.

Yeah sure she'll do what they want but only too a point. The third act is almost entirely about them realizing that her "obedience" is mostly just polite cooperation. When she decides enough with the cajoling and meek suggestion the audience sees all of it was mostly just an illusion for the sake of civility. She's going to do what she wants guys' wishes be damned and the best they can hope for is to ride the wave rather than be drowned by it.

See, Lisa is a reality warper. Every weird thing that happens in this movie with the exception of her creation and the "sequel" so to speak happens because she willed it. EVERY WEIRD THING. I don't want to spoil the climax but keep that in mind.  Most of it ties in to her two primary goals. Having fun and getting the two other leads to grow a pair.

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