male/female power in Whale Rider April 17, 2007Posted by sindhub in Female Power, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Power, Whale Rider.
I thought it was interesting that despite the fact that the main character, Paikea (played by Keisha Castle-Hughes), was so much younger than the other leading female characters in the films we’ve seen so far, she still had so much in common with them: she’s a girl who has to be the very best in order to prove herself (similar to Girlfight), there’s also a boy (the one that farts during the performance at the beginning), and there’s the lack of a strong/respectable father figure (similar to Girlfight, Carrie, Tomb Raider 2).
The most noticeable similarity, though, was that Paikea did not fight against the existing/traditional system of power; rather, she fought for her right, as an individual female, to hold power within that system. Just like Diana in Girlfight doesn’t fight for the right of all women to box, but rather for her right to compete with men, and just like Demi Moore’s character in G.I. Jane struggles to prove herself not as a woman but as herself, Paikea struggles for her grandfather’s acceptance despite being a girl–and of course, she succeeds because she’s better than all the boys and because she’s seemingly ‘destined’ for the role. This brings into question the idea of ‘female power’ and what it is–if a woman holds power within the traditionally male system of power by proving herself capable of holding that traditionally ‘male’ power despite being female (and overcoming all the obstacles that biologically entails, either because of the system’s beliefs or ‘biological reality’), does it count as female power? Would fighting against the system, on the other hand, be ‘feminine’ power?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I thought it was interesting that while the lead characters’ lives may have changed drastically in these films, the lives of the other female characters haven’t. I do think, though, that the leads’ success affects viewers and maybe even ’empowers’ them.