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motherhood trumps all? April 25, 2007

Posted by Wasik in bodies, careerwomen, female bounty hunters, Female Power, gender, motherhood, Sri Lanka conflict, the state, The Terrorist, Uncategorized, women and war.
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Both “The Terrorist” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight” raise the question: when a woman’s kickass body is an essential tool in her job (in the former, because she is a suicide bomber, and the latter because she is a counter-assasination agent for the State Dep’t), is it possible for her to also be a mother?

Both of the films resoundingly answer: no. In “The Terrorist”, Malli is trained and ready to sacrifice everything: she knows that she will lose her life, and that other innocent people will also inadvertantly die for her cause when she pushes the little orange button. However, when she finds out she is pregnant, she cannot go through with her mission. Her choice begs the question, why was she ok with killing herself and other innocents, but not her innocent child? I don’t think that Malli herself would be able to answer this question, for the movie seems to imply that her choice wasn’t rational; it was based on an internal mothering instinct which, as a female, she couldn’t help. I am grateful that “The Terrorist” does not pass judgment on her final choice, and instead leaves it up to the viewer; the same cannot be said for “The Long Kiss Goodnight”.

In “The Long Kiss Goodnight”, Charlie has a great time rediscovering her old secret agent personality. She tears up the picture of her new boyfriend and daughter, leaving Samuel L Jackson as the only nagging reminder of her motherly duties. As she loses sight of her motherly instincts, Charlie becomes less appealing to the viewer of the film. The movie intentionally shows her as uncaring and reckless, and her kickass deeds somehow seem less commendable because Jackson constantly reminds us that her Charlie personality comes at the cost of losing the PTA-chairing Samantha. In the end, Charlie realizes that she cannot abandon her child, and embraces her mothering role within the role of secret agent. However, such a hybridity of identity cannot last long, for her daughter is a liability (honestly! what sort of dumb kid climbs into a box attached to a truck and shuts herself in?!?) and, by the end of the film, Charlie has chosen to return to her life as Samantha.

Clearly, the movies have a point: giving your body to your cause and using it to nurture your offspring are mutually exclusive. In “The Terrorist”, Malli cannot both save her child and accomplish her mission; in “The Long Kiss Goodnight” Charlie cannot live both of her lives and perform either one properly. However, the fact that both women choose motherhood over their primary missions in life shows that the movies venerate the generative capacity of women more than their destructive one; they seem to be saying, ‘when it’s time to be a mother, leave the killing to the men’. I am torn as to how I feel about that, because motherhood is one of the most worthy causes I can think of– but I am pretty sure that I’d enjoy a movie in which the heroine lived a long and fulfilling life sans child.

[Lastly, what IS it about Geena Davis and choosing roles in which she ‘ does the right thing and returns home to her man’? “A League of Their Own” dejavu, anyone?]

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1. joannawasik - April 25, 2007

As annoying as it is to comment on your own post– I can’t help it. Sorry ladies and gents.

I often find myself tweaking my opinions on movies after I talk to my male friends about them (a lot of the time they get sucked in to watching the films with me because the movies are–well–pop culture!).

After I posted, one of my friends pointed out that I was being silly for wishing that a female heroine would choose to continue her secret agent life instead of choosing motherhood. He said that this actually happens in most movies where women are secret agents– in “Tomb Raider”, Angelina Jolie never really confronts the idea of motherhood head on, but the fact that she rather kick ass than have a child is implied in the whole structure of the film. And in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, even though Jolie has a husband and could feasibly wish for a family, the issue is never raised– so she doesn’t let motherhood ‘restrain’ her from her job in that movie, either.

My friend has a point. So I guess it’s OK that Geena Davis just wants to be a mom.


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