Friday, July 05, 2013

Reviewing The Heat: Why You Ladies Gotta Talk Like That?

So Dr. Skull and I went to see The Heat on the Fourth of July.

The theater was packed, which I honestly wasn't expecting.  I mean, we hear all this noise from Hollywood how no one will go see movies with girls in them.

"Who wants to see two women talking to each other?" I believe is the direct quotation.

Pretty much everyone if this crowd was any indication.  It was young and old and middle-aged, and everyone (including Dr. Skull and I) seemed to like it a lot, though, yeah, the plot had some holes, especially toward the end.  Though the pacing is such you frankly won't notice them -- it rips right along.

I've loved Sandra Bullock for years, and Melissa McCarthy, who plays the Boston cop Shannon Mullins, is just brilliant. It's a buddy film, so it does the buddy arc thing, where they start out hating each other and end up friends. And it's got that buddy film trope -- one of them is uptight / the other is a wild card.

But though it underplays its point, that's not all this film is doing.

Shannon Mullins -- as we're shown from her family picture -- is the only girl in a Boston family of giant hulking brothers, all of whom her mother (obviously) favors over her, despite the fact that she is the only one in the family who has done well. At work, she's clearly competent and energetic, and yet is mocked by everyone: treated like a loser.

FBI Special Agent Ashburn, despite being excellent at her job, gets no respect, and no mentoring, and no support, from the men around her and above her.  Instead they mock her to her face and behind her back.

Mullins reacts with a little more hostility to this treatment than Ashburn does...well, okay, a lot more hostility.  But what's interesting to me is that the movie simply presents Mullins' reaction; it does not comment on it.

Why is Mullins like this?  It lets us draw (or maybe not draw) our own conclusions.

Here is a thing which happened.  About, oh, an hour into the movie. You'll remember people have been enjoying this movie a lot.  Laughing out loud, yelling in delight, really getting into it.

And I haven't said so, but the Mullins character, a Boston cop, cusses a great deal, and very inventively.  It's funny.  So Mullins says something, I don't remember what, but it's hilarious. Everyone is laughing, but this guy in the audience -- maybe mid-thirties from his voice, and white -- yells, with angry disapproval:  "That girl needs her mouth washed out with a bar of soap!"

I don't think too many people heard him.  The laughter was too wild.

Then as we were leaving, I was waiting for Dr. Skull, who was in the pisser, and this old guy, maybe 70, was waiting for his wife, and he kept looking at me and making exasperated sighs, like he wanted to strike up a conversation.  But I have lived in Fort Smith long enough that I have learned not to talk to old white guys.  So he had to wait for his wife to emerge so he could tell her what he thought which was this: "I have never heard the f-word said so many times in my life!"

Now, first, I have my doubts, because I doubt that is the first R-rated movie this old fella has been to.  Second, I suspect it is not the F-word, per se, that he is objecting to, but the gender of the mouth it is coming out of. Third, peep this review, where this charming gentleman objects to McCarthy's weight while she is cursing.

Is it fun to see the morbidly obese McCarthy curse like a sailor nonstop for two hours?  No.  

Perhaps if she had been slender and fit, he might have enjoyed the experience more?

I am dubious.

My point, and I have one: What Dippold and Feig are up to here is showing us women in a way we are not used to seeing them (and by we I mean yes, we women): this is women not from the male gaze.


  • the almost lack of tit shots (I counted two)
  • The almost total lack of women-they-bitches which is so standard in every other bit of media 
  • the almost total absence of women attacking women for being women
  • the use of men (rather than women) as objects of desire
  • the women's eye view of how men appear in the world (that scene of the men in the bar is lovely)
  • the refusal to see women who have a lot of sex as sluts
I spent some time today trolling around the internet, reading reviews.  It wasn't 100%, but in general, women (and some younger men) like this movie a lot; older men (and some older women) are furious or appalled or made deeply uneasy by it.  I'm pretty sure this is why. If you've never seen any film or read any book or consumed any media except through the male gaze, this film has got to be deeply disorientating.

And kind of cool, yes.

Obviously my Christian septagenarian did not take it that way.  Though I think maybe his wife did, from the half-hearted way she murmured her rejoinders. 


Tree of Knowledge said...

I just saw this movie, and I absolutely loved it. Didn't mind at all about the super predictable plot. It was wonderful for all the things you say here. And HILARIOUS. But I agree that it does all of the not-from-the-male-gaze things you list and I want more.

Victoria Gaile said...

Thanks for this review! I may actually go see this movie (I'm not much into movies) just for the chance to see women not-from-the-male-gaze.

delagar said...

Victoria, it's worth the ticket, if only to see it with the theater crowd who (if they are like my crowd) will love it.

I saw your review, Tree! I also laughed so hard I cried in several places.

Bardiac said...

Oh, this sounds like I should go see it!