Why "Sucker Punch" Makes Me Nervous

I'm a HUGE fan of action movies with leading ladies. In fact, I love action heroines so much that I have an entirely separate blog devoted to that love at Best Action Heroines. I LOVE chicks who can kick a little (or a lot of) rear on screen, for multiple reasons.

I'm excited to see Sucker Punch, but it also makes me nervous. And I'll tell you why...

The costumes.

The movie looks to be all about female empowerment, ladies kicking tail and taking charge. But we also know it's a fantasy film, some elements are real while others are not. The previews tell us that the leading lady in the movie retreats to her imagination to help her get through a tough reality. So I wonder, if it's her imagination, why is she wearing thigh highs, a belly shirt, and a skirt that barely covers her business?

I'm sure the film will address this. It HAS to address this. So I am choosing to believe that it will. Because I want to love it. There must be a good reason why all of the women are costumed in some pretty blatant and overt fetishistic outfits. If they were empowering themselves, why would they be dressing like they're in a strip club? I mean, honestly, it's not even practical fighting gear? (I've covered this before in an op/ed from Geek Monthly about why you can't kick tail as effectively dressed like a hooker.)

Of course, as I always have to defend myself on this after the now infamous "slave Leia bikini" article that nearly saw my fangirl card revoked by hundreds of angry slave-Leias everywhere, I have to say I'm not anti-sexy. (You can't imagine the scathing emails and comments I got for months after that...I still get the stink eye sometimes at conventions.) I love the movie Chicago and it's plum full of women in revealing outfits. But they are also in control, clearly choosing what they are wearing and why, when and how. I recognize that there's not one required "look" for strong female characters. There's no right way to be an action heroine. They can be feminine or plain, short hair, long hair, belly shirt...whatever...but it has to feel authentic and there has to be a good reason for the costuming.

Remember that recent episode of 30 ROCK where Liz Lemon loses her mind over a woman writer recently hired because she uses that phony baby doll Paris Hilton voice and acts like a bimbo just to get attention from men? Well, that's what I'm worried this movie will be. A phony copy, a bastardization of strong female characters following some formula but missing the heart. Missing the revolution. But then again, I worried extensively for months before Abrams Star Trek. I was terrified he would ruin it. And I saw it in the theater six times. I know I should relax. I know it's "just a movie". But like I always say, movies can take the pulse of a pop culture nation. And I'm constantly worried that this new genre that I love, only having sprung up in the last thirty or so years, will jump the shark before it has the chance to become something legitimate. (I'll be seeing Hanna too, by the way. And yes...I have thoughts on the new Wonder Woman costume. But that's another rant for another day.)

But Sucker Punch's little sailor girl outfits that reek of anime exploitation...well, like I said, they make me nervous. I want strong leading ladies who are strong for their own sake, not just to be eye candy to fulfill these modern sculpted straight male fantasies that have become run of the mill. (That frequently involve a creepy child-like/underaged school girl uniform in some incarnation...ick.)

Anyway, I could go on and on about this subject. I'm just saying, I hope this movie is the real deal. I hope it's for me and not just for male audiences. I hope it's got layers of well thought out meaning and that it's not just a fetishistic music video masquerading as some revolution in female strength. It's such a very thin, very fine line between empowerment and exploitation nowadays. Don't you think?

I get the feeling I'll know very quickly when I sit down to watch.