Movies that conciously edited out powerful women
Posts in total: 4
The Bourne movies are back on HBO and I'm reminded that these movies did a grave disservice to the literary character of Jason Bourne's wife, Marie St Jacques. In the books, Marie is the brains of the operation as Bourne is too carefully programmed to effectively investigate his identity. She is a brilliant economist and Canadian diplomat who saves Jason's bacon more often than he saves her. As the novels progress, Marie marries Bourne and they have two children. She continues to support Bourne's missions with intel from home base. In the movies, she's an aimless drifter who's relatively overmatched by circumstances and is merely added to the carnage early in the second installment. Some argue that the feats of deduction that assemble an assassin's biography, (the core narrative of the novel), would play less well than karate with a rolled-up newspaper on screen. Maybe. But Bourne is also stripped of the dynamic that makes him more than the cinematic killing machine. Marie's character is why Jason Bourne is teaching linguistics at Georgetown- healing, progressing, discovering new loyalties that sustain 12 literary installments of interest in Bourne's story, while the static brute of the movie versions get uninteresting by the third story.
I'd like to see a more faithful adaptation of the original Bourne Trilogy, set in the 1980s, something like a 12 part Netflix series might be the best venue. Casting? I think Julia Stiles would be great as Marie....try Tom Hardy as Bourne.
Along the same lines as St. Jacques but perhaps less forgivable is the rewrite of Dr Susan Calvin of the I, Robot short story collection. Asimov's Calvin is is a stone-cold detective, a proto-Spock cum Sherlock, solving cybernetic mysteries by clarity of reason. She is one of Wingrove's ten "Immortals of Science Fiction. Harlan Ellison's screenplay ( a work I'd like to see on film) depicts Calvin as:
...a small woman, but there is a towering strength in her face. Tensile strength, that speaks to endurance, to maintaining in the imperfect world. Her mouth is thin, and her face pale. Grace lives in her features, and intelligence; but she is not an attractive woman. She is not one of those women who in later years it can be said of them, "She must have been a beauty when she was younger". Susan Calvin was always plain. And clearly, always a powerful personality"
In the movie, Calvin barely registers as Will Smith's action bimbo. To be fair, the movie never set out to employ any of Asimov's narrative and just tacked on the name to improve interest by deception. Still, they should have left Susan Calvin's name out of the script since the result is only indignity.
Again, a ten-part Netflix series true to the short stories could be really good Sci-Fi. Great role for any actress: Nicole Kidman comes to mind immediately.
Lawrence of Arabia is famously a movie with no speaking parts for women and makes no mention of Gertrude Bell, a colleague and frequent fellow traveler of T. E. Lawrence. I'll blame Lawrence's problematic autobiography more than Hollywood for the snub, which conveniently omits many others as well of Lawrence's collaborators during the Arab Revolt. A case can be made today that Bell's insights into Arab society have proved more prescient than Lawrence's, certainly the Arab world remembers Bell's contribution more fondly than Lawrence in retrospect.
56 days later
Braveheart is generally acknowledged as a profoundly ahistorical film: if you google "least historically accurate movies" Braveheart appears somewhere on each of the first 9 lists. I won't take the time to lay out all the fake news but the film besmirches many real people's reputations including that of Isabella of France, who is remembered now as the "She-Wolf of France" for her active rulership as Queen Regent of England for three years is depicted a smitten turncoat surrendering to William Wallace's sexual magnetism, making the future Edward III a bastard by treason and not incidentally, delegitimizing the rule of all successive English monarchs. In truth, Wallace was executed for treason when Isabella was still a child in France.