‘Gravity’ director chose female lead to ‘strip it from heroists’

All I’d heard about acclaimed director Alfonso Cuaron’s new movie “Gravity” were glowing reviews until someone posted Beyond the Trailer’s review on Reel Girl’s Facebook page. Disgusted with Sandra Bullock’s screaming, hysterical, and annoying character, Beyond the Trailer refers to a recent interview where Cuaron says he chose a female lead for the movie in order to “strip it from heroists.” Beyond the Trailer says:

Are Caron and his son saying women can’t be seen as heroes? Tell that to the women who helped forge our clandestine services as spies during World War 1 and World War 2 or the Air Force’s current 60 female fighter pilots. Or how about Victoria Lee Soto and Anne Marie Murphy, teachers who used themselves as human shields between Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza and their students and were fatally shot.

Of course, that list doesn’t even begin to cover all the female heroes. While Beyond the Trailer says “heroist” means “people who admire heroes,” I’d never heard the word, so I looked it up. I can’t find a definition. The interview where Cuaron uses the word also refers to his native Spanish and thick accent. Did he make the word up? Is it a Spanish word? Was it misheard? Do you know the word? Though I can’t find a definition, from the context, I can’t see what else Cuaron would mean besides, as Beyond the Trailer says, that he made a movie with a female lead because he wanted to make a movie without a hero. I, too, feel disgusted and appalled.

Here’s Beyond the Trailer’s review:

Update: After I blogged, I Tweeted Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood, which is one of my favorite blogs, to get her thoughts. She Tweeted back:

maybe he meant that he wanted to make it different from the typical conversations of heroes and throw a wrench in it…I respectfully disagree and feel she was a huge hero.

 

Silverstein’s first column for Forbes “Gravity– a Step Forward For Women On Screen” came out a few hours later.

Gravity is important because it is a movie that will be a part of the Oscar conversation for the duration and that means we will be talking about a female astronaut who has to basically overcome every adversity you could imagine to survive… Even the films about men that are not even a part of the Oscar conversations are about male heroes — albeit superheroes — but this film takes a woman, a scientist, an incredibly smart woman who needs to figure out how to save herself.  Not a typical Hollywood movie to say the least.  It’s a film about competence, about training, about science and resiliency and, yes, Sandra Bullock is a hero, and she’s a hero who actually flies in space.

That sounds great, but I still question what Cuaron meant in his statement. Cab posted a link defining “heroist” from urbandictionary.com

1. One who worships heroes and wants to become one

2. Someone that creates or nurtures heroes Alfred Pennyworth was a heroist to Batman

 

From this definition, heroist doesn’t sound negative, as in someone obsessed with conventional ideas of a what a hero is. Alfred Pennyworth is a noble character. So, I still don’t get it. As far as the comments who describe the screaming reaction fits in with the story, I agree with Cat who comments here:

It isn’t gender neutral for the female character to be hysterical and incompetent while the male character is calmly trying to keep her focused and give her instructions…The issue isn’t that this film depicts one hysterical female character. The issue is that it reinforces a negative pattern and though they could have reversed the genders, they didn’t.

 

 

7 thoughts on “‘Gravity’ director chose female lead to ‘strip it from heroists’

  1. She is by no way a panicked female. Anyone drifting away in space would have reacted the same way. Clooney was not panicked because he wasn’t drifting. While I am dismayed how Hollywood portrays females, I believe this is a very unfair review based on one not-understood word that Cuaron used to describe his movie. This is movie is most certainly about a strong intelligent woman who survives without the help from anyone.

  2. > It isn’t gender neutral for the female character to be hysterical and incompetent while the male character is calmly trying to keep her focused and give her instructions

    This is so overblown, she panics for no more than 20 seconds after being thrown off shuttle and spinning rapidly. She still follows his instructions and describes her location using the Earth because her GPS was faulty. Something only possible if she was in control of her faculties.

    The idea that she is some helpless person rescued by Clooney is ridiculous.

    The heroist comment is obviously being willfully misinterpreted.

    This was a fantastic movie, and now people wanna jump on the bandwagon that it is sexist.

    • Definitely agree. She panics as an inexperiences astronaut being thrown into empty space. Clooney, an older, experienced astronaut, helps her. So, there you go, man saving panicked lady? Well, not exactly, he dies early in the film and she saves herself. The last shot of the movie is just a moment of pure triumph for her. As far as the heroist comment, it’s just plain hard to tell what he meant, but my takeaway from the movie was 100% that she was heroic, overcoming personal demons as well as tons of outside adversity using her brains, courage, and creativity.

  3. The comment section for this video and for Grace’s earlier trailer reviews argue that the hysterical reaction of Sandra Bullock’s character is natural for anyone who is stuck in the middle of space when something suddenly goes wrong. They see it as a gender neutral situation. But they’re ignoring the fact that it isn’t gender neutral. It isn’t gender neutral for the female character to be hysterical and incompetent while the male character is calmly trying to keep her focused and give her instructions. As you’ve said in previous posts, princesses are not a problem. The problem is telling all little girls that they should be princesses or that one standard of femininity is acceptable for everyone. The issue isn’t that this film depicts one hysterical female character. The issue is that it reinforces a negative pattern and though they could have reversed the genders, they didn’t.

    • What you’re describing is a character arc. She starts out a newbie, and becomes much tougher under pressure.

      Alfonso Cuaron has made several movies with female leads, so I rather doubt he somehow thinks women aren’t heroes.

    • The most important gender is space is: pilot vs non-pilot astronauts. Clooney’s character was a test pilot. Also, he had a flippin’ jet pack while Bullock didn’t. Those facts alone explain their different reactions. (And Clooney’s bizarre calm in the face of armageddon certainly needed explaining!)

      A male non-pilot astronaut would’ve been realistically frantic, too. Now, the roles could’ve been reversed, with Bullock as the pilot, without changing the plot much. But, as Sean C. indicates below, it is indeed more interesting to see a character overcome obstacles to succeed. If she had been confident & sanguine, the story would’ve had less tension.

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