Sexism in the Movies, or What I Thought About “Oblivion”

Oblivion_01

Tom Cruise, saving the world. Again.

 

I watched Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Jaime Lannister and a couple of women. Here’s what I think…

When I watch an action film these days, having read many of the posts by Lucy Hay, I find myself wondering if the roles could have been reversed, and would that have made the film more interesting, or less? In this case, Tom Cruise is working as a technician on an Earth made largely uninhabitable by the last war, approximately 60 years in the future. Humankind has fled the surface for a space station in orbit, the staging area for their onward journey to Titan, one of Jupiter’s moons. He lives in a serene habitation pod complete with swimming pool, suspended above the Earth, with his tower controller, a beautiful woman. While he kits himself out in his tough-guy work uniform and grabs his enormous weapon, ready to fling his aircraft off the platform into a breathtaking dive, Top Gun-style, she drifts around in her silky nightgown, changes into impractically high heels and a figure-hugging dress and goes to work in the shiny control room. He risks his life to maintain the drones that protect the power stations providing power to the space station, while she relays their daily adventures to mission control on the space station, and looks anxious so that we know that his job is really dangerous.

Later in the story, he meets some underground rebel types, led by Morgan Freeman and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau with his hand back on (isn’t Jaime Lannister easier to say?), and discovers another love interest (I’m trying so hard to avoid spoilers). She is an astronaut, launched from Earth in 2017, so I am guessing she’s pretty intelligent, tough and highly trained.

When things start to unravel, as things inevitably do, his live-in partner clings to the way things have been, refusing to leave the pod or believe that everything is not as it seems. She is prepared to betray him to avoid facing reality. During the Big Battle WithThe Machines (sound familiar? When are we going to stop trusting these damn machines?), the astronaut, instead of snatching up another big weapon and helping her man out, takes on the role of looking stunned and gently guiding the elderly and infirm out of the firing line. As a machine catches up with the fleeing crowd and illogically pauses before blasting them all to kingdom come (as they always do), she turns to face her doom before they are rescued by Jaime Lannister with a huge gun and really big shoulder pads. Phew.

Finally we get our explanation in the form of the back story, which tells us that (a) women are more susceptible to memory erasure than men and (b) when you give a guy a chance, he’ll build a really cute cabin by a lake for you.

I liked the film, but it was really predictable and actually quite boring. Here’s what I think would have been more interesting. A tough technician with a dangerous job lives with her tower controller, a smart and likeable technomonkey (think  Lori Petty as Tank Girl and Fran Kranz as Topher Brink). She finds a crashed astronaut and some underground rebel types (led by a man or a woman, with equal numbers of men and women in command positions, but keep Nicolaj because he’s worth it). They have a big fight, back story ensues, etc etc.

Or how about this to stretch Tom Cruise in his acting career? Nicolaj Coster-Waldau plays a tough technician living with his female tower controller but later discovers a new love interest in the crashed astronaut, Tom Cruise. Together they save humanity and build a really cute cabin by a lake.

 

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