And ideology is bad for criticism.
This morning I read an article by The Guardian’s Anna Smith, who accuses Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Blade Runner of sexism, and even reaches back to the original film accusing that, too, of objectifying women. She concludes by suggesting to boycott the new film altogether.
Beside the simple arrogance of telling readers (I suppose women readers) to trust her instead of seeing for themself, I really wonder how she came up with this conclusion: did she fall asleep and dream her own, obsessed version after just glimpsing some scenes? Or rather, was it a kind of knee-jerk reaction at the images she saw?
I think I have already mentioned other cases of ideological narrow-mindedness; I’ll just mention the one about The revenant ; one of the Guardian’s female journalists, who probably knew very little about the western (and the West) had trashed the film because there were only two women, one of whom was killed, while the other was raped. Which is not so unlikely as the film is set in a place and at a time where violence was the norm and in vast territories women were extremely few.
Here, though, it seems to me that the film does exactly the opposite of what the article claims: it exposed an attitude that does exist today, in our world, especially on the Internet. In the movie, all the images of very available women which are so irritating to those who can’t watch a film without hitting the ideology button are fake, or rather unreal: they are holograms, advertisments or virtual companions; they clearly refer to today’s ubiquitous presence of naked or anyway sexy depiction of women on the web for the use of people who probably do not live a very fulfilling life. The fact that the film’s hero K – a replicant – has not got a real-life girlfriend but an electronic substitute is another way in which he is not given full human status, while he is required to protect human society. An imaginary lover by the commercial name of Joy, who, in an echo of K’s struggle to be human, tries to do more than just play a part.
I think it is a really bad idea to force p.c. on a product of creativity, whether it is art or not: trying to make every film inclusive, feminist, possibly non-violent simply means to deny freedom to the writer or film maker, and what is worse, if this rather moralistic attitude prevailed every book or film would become very dull and predictable.
Let me borrow another paragraph from The Guardian, this time a review of Ghost story by the excellent and very balanced critic, Peter Bradshaw:
Ghost Stories is a very male film, dominated by male characters, but it is overtly about a macho sort of anxiety.
It has come to this: a male critic writing a positive review about a film which happens to be mostly about men feels that he has to mention this as a potential limitation, and compensate it by mentioning that the men are not simply machos, but anxiously so.
As a woman, I believe this is absolutely crazy. I think everyone can write or shoot any story they want, and that the readers or spectators must look for quality, for creativity and skill, not ideological compliance.
Which is why I’ll conclude going back to Blade Runner 2049 and say, go and see the film, turn off the ideology button, enjoy the story and the splendid images.