Rush-That-Speaks (rushthatspeaks) wrote,

Stardust, the movie

I went with B. and seishonagon and thespooniest to Stardust on Saturday, and sat there during the previews muttering over and over to myself 'not that travesty they're making of The Dark Is Rising, please, any trailer but that'. And my wish was granted (phew). The Golden Compass trailer actually looks quite good and is talking polar-bear enabled, which pleases me.

As for Stardust itself, well. The visuals are lovely. It is very well directed, and makes a complicated story easy to follow and a large cast distinguishable and distinctive. The acting ranges between good and awesome, with Claire Danes' love scene to a mouse standing out as a highlight for me. Robert De Niro was an absolute delight. The dialogue was funny, if not quotable.

But.

I'm quite accustomed to accepting that works of art have flaws, and that this does not invalidate them. I know that things can be brilliant in one sphere and horrid in others without it hurting the brilliance. I love many things that are objectively speaking quite bad in ways that should really be quite difficult to ignore.

I do however have a finite capacity to put up with some forms of badness, and Stardust strained that capacity ever farther until finally it snapped violently, leaving me angry, depressed, and thoroughly disappointed.

Because oh my gods, is that movie *bad* about women.


So the women in the movie fall into two major categories: women who center themselves around Tristan, Our Hero, and women who don't. Let's start with the first, and specifically Yvaine.

What is the first thing Tristan does to Yvaine (after crash-landing on her in a sexually suggestive sort of way)? He ties her up.

After that, he calls her a stupid cow.

After that, he makes her walk for miles and miles on a broken ankle, complaining that she isn't moving fast enough and becoming upset with her anytime she tries to rest.

Then he ties her up again and leaves her alone, completely not thinking about whether there is any inherent danger in doing so.

And he does all this because he wants to give her as a present. She even points it out to him, sarcastically telling him that an injured woman is such a romantic gift.

Even after Tristan has started treating her more like a person, he never apologizes for his previous behavior, and he doesn't stop wanting to give her as a present until very, very late (after he's had sex with her, by the way).

So of course Yvaine falls madly in love with him, makes him immortal, and they live happily ever after. And when she's saving the day by using her innate star powers, which she has had all along, she says to him that she couldn't have done it without him, because clearly she can do nothing without Being In Love.

Oh and even though the pirates do not hurt Yvaine, they find it necessary to use sexual threats whenever talking about her, because their reputation as Manly Men would suffer if they didn't. And Yvaine, unlike in the book, does not get to learn swordfighting with Tristan; she learns to play the piano. Because clearly it would be useful in no way for someone who has half the kingdom wanting to chase her down and cut her heart out to learn how to defend herself. After all, she has Tristan to do it for her!

Also in the centered-on-Tristan category we have Tristan's mother, who doesn't take the throne despite being the only surviving royalty of her generation because there has to be a male heir. Yes, this is an analogue nineteenth-century, and yes, that does make sense for the time period-- except that in the novel, she does become queen, because Tristan recognizes that he hasn't been trained or raised to be king and won't be any good at it. The movie has explicitly changed this. All Una gets to do is protect Tristan-- and Yvaine, once she finds out Tristan would like that.

Every woman in the non-centered on Tristan category is some variety of evil, cruel, selfish bitch. Every single one. There's Victoria, who has the horrible taste not to throw aside all her bred-in-the-bone period-appropriate class ideology to marry a shopboy she doesn't like (clearly a quality of evil punishable only by having it rubbed in your face that you will not be the queen of the magical kingdom and also by having your husband make eyes at other men (and I find that bit problematic for other reasons too-- Captain Shakespeare, basically the most awesome character in the movie, is being used to punish Victoria by flirting with her husband, because clearly homosexuals have no taste and are innately threatening to the sanctity of the family, or something)).

There are the witches. The three sisters, despite impressive magical powers, can't think of anything better to do with eternal life or any better reason to have it than to try desperately to make themselves pretty, because clearly visible signs of aging are The End Of The World. They'll do anything to make themselves pretty. The men, meanwhile, get to think about eternal life in terms of kingship and power and whether or not they want that.

The other witch, Ditchwater Sal, doesn't seem to care so much about beauty, which I do appreciate. She does at least seem to have her own motivations. Of course, anytime anyone insults her, it's based entirely on her appearance. And for keeping Tristan's mother a slave (granted, nasty) and doing exactly as she promised she would for Tristan, she gets killed in a really disgusting manner that is then played for laughs.

Grrr. Just... grrr. And it annoys me more than it might otherwise because some of this is things that are movie-specific, because the book wasn't spectacular about its women but it wasn't like this. It would have been so easy to do so much better, and it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

Do I still think people should see this movie? Sure. A lot of it is great. Just know how it's going to be on this score, and that it crosses my personal line as to what I cannot watch without nausea and fury. Your mileage may vary.

I just wish they'd taken the giant glowing opportunities to do better than they did.
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