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Alias and Humanizing People April 30, 2007

Posted by andyw in alias, Ethics, Female Power, feminism, gender, general considerations, jennifer garner, marketing gender, Power, The Human.
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I want to advocate that Jennifer Garner can be subversively read as a human being, and not as a female character.

lindamc made some good points about how the episodes purposely showed Garner as soft and feminine. She explains that there is a strange cycle that goes on between feminizing her and making her in control. For instance, she turns away from the in-her-face killing of the gun dealer’s assistant and looking terrified when she is being chased by two guys with guns. Those two examples present her as feminine, and they are contrasted with her having “a tough face spewing Arabic” and announcing where she is to the guys “in a voice that reeks of control and arrogance”. These feminine moments, lindamc argues, are there “for the audience to connect with her, and so they recognize that she could die on any episode”. This is a perfectly valid analysis, and I have little wish to disagree.

However I feel sympathetic to the reading posed by jenniferlewk where she argues that what happens in the red cross truck when Garner makes herself look foolish (by thinking she knew it all when she didn’t) humanizes Garner.

I will pose a synthesis between the two readings, although I will take lindamc’s example of the shooting (since I am not sure I would categorize that scene in the red cross truck as humanizing). She is very emotionally distraught by it. And it is easy and compelling to read this as indicating some sort of weak femininity on her part. And such readings have to be made. I think, however, that it might be more politically progressive and powerful to read her action against what is probably the director’s intent as the human response to violent death.

Yes it is very problematic that the woman is the one who is distraught, and the director’s are probably doing something sexist with that. But I still think the ethical reading is that her reaction is not the feminine reaction, but the properly ethical (and, depending on your theorist, human) response to violence. As such, it reveals the inhuman nature of SD6, of her partner, of the killer, perhaps even of weapons generally. And that is, I think, the best way to read it: acknowledge it’s sexism but progress beyond that to see in it a truly ethical response (a response that might, or might not, be compromised at other times in the series).

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