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Cowboys & Aliens: All this, AND I was bored

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

Friends, internetcountrypeople, thank goodness for Native American characters. Without Native American characters, the plot of Cowboys & Aliens would have completely collapsed.

Without Native American characters, who would have given Daniel Craig a magic drink to bring back his memory of where the aliens' ship was?

Without a Native American character, who would have given a testimonial about the good heart hidden within Harrison Ford's racist, hateful, torturing, arrogant, oppressive rich bastard character who fucks with anyone who crosses his path? He "adopted" an orphaned Injun boy and treated him like a servant for years, he can't be all bad!

Without Native American characters, who would have comforted Harrison Ford when his servant sacrificed his life to save his master? Who would have then decided to follow Ford into battle, affirming his true role as a military leader?

And thank goodness for women of color, as well! They get kidnapped so their husbands are motivated to go save them! Okay, so, one woman of color (Ana de la Reguera). She did get some lines, though... doesn't that make it better?

I almost couldn't write a review of this film on Heroine Content because of the distinct lack of female ass-kicking, but then Olivia Wilde jumped one time. And she hit Daniel Craig on the head from behind with the butt of a pistol, so I guess that counts. Beyond that, though, this film offers less than nothing. Unless you like to hear women who may have previously done sex work referred to repeatedly as whores.

No stars.

8 Comments

Bloody hell....I was reading all kinds of publicity about this movie that came out after Comic-Con and Olivia Wilde was REPEATEDLY quoted describing her character as some kind of gender-role smashing kick-ass gunslinger.

I want to see THAT movie.

Max said at July 30, 2011 11:10 AM:

yeah the Native Americans come to respect Harrison Ford during the course of the movie, but he also gains a huge respect for the Native Americans during it as well. It's not so one sided. At first he's shooting down every strategy they have to offer, and thinks their weapons are pretty useless, and is unwilling to listen to them, trying to take all the planning to himself on how to beat the aliens. During the big battle, he realizes that his plan is not working and sees that the Native Americans are going in and kicking ass. He drops his prejudices a little bit, enough to at least pick up their weapons and try to use their strategy which he was so against earlier. And it works. The Native American captain guy gains his respect, and through seeing this change of heart in Ford, he gains the Native American's respect as well, and that's when the Native American captain decides to let Ford lead the next wave of the battle. Sure it's not a perfect movie but there's at least a little more gong on than the review said, in terms of this business.

Skye said at July 30, 2011 5:09 PM:

@draconismoi - She gets kidnapped by an alien craft and Daniel Craig has to save her, does that help? Oh, and she's naked at one point. I guess she probably fires a gun a couple of times, but she is most certainly not a badass in this film.

@Max - Do the Native American characters ever become more than accessories to the white folks? I'm going to say no. So all this "personal growth" in Ford's character doesn't impress me, unfortunately, when in the entirety of the film, the Apache are just there to be plot devices.

(I enjoyed Raoul Trujillo's peformance as Black Knife, though, so hopefully he also got paid reasonably well.)

Max said at July 31, 2011 12:12 AM:

@Skye I see your point, since the movie really was focused on the cowboys and not so much on the Native Americans except for when their worlds collided, but I feel like the Apache were more than just accessories to the white folks- because their people had been kidnapped by the aliens too. They had just as much reason to be fighting as the white people, and both parties realized that only by working together could they hope to free their loved ones.

Also, I don't like to hear people repeatedly call women whores... even the people in that scene didn't seem to like it... but if I do hear people like that, I at least like to see them get their ass handed to them. And I think Daniel Craig did a pretty nice job shooting that guy in the chest (and making him explode) for being such a jerk :D

Eden said at July 31, 2011 7:54 PM:

I think I just died a little bit inside after reading this review. I've been looking forward to watching this ever since I heard about it (a year, eighteen months?) ago. Oh well, better not to give it any box office then :(

SPOILER ALERT/RANT

Dear Hollywood:

You know how I always complain when you fridge your token female character? I totally loved how you responded to that here.

Oh look, she dies. In James Bond's arms. Because he needs a Good Woman to Fight For. Typical.

Psych! She's not really dead. She's a super-sexy-naked-alien. Super-sexy-naked-aliens are not fridged.....until later. Because he needs a Good Woman to Mourn. How nice, we cycled right back around to typical after a brief detour into gratuitous nudity.

This is not better.

Better would have been turing Orphan Boy into Orphan Girl (A Maddie prototype). Giving us some lady redshirts from the townfolk and tribe (You already love giving women non-speaking roles. All they would have had to do is sit on a horse and die). Why not show James Bond's dead girlfriend with a more mercenary spirit? (Not all hookers have hearts of gold, some of them appreciate big piles of money regardless of the source).

Maureen said at August 2, 2011 11:43 AM:

I actually thought of Heroine Content and what your take would be while watching this movie. My main problem was with Olivia Wilde's mascara--only from another galaxy can you get mascara and eyeliner that not only lasts 48 hours but does not run when an alien spaceship dumps you in a pond. This was my first clue that she was not what she seemed.

I did enjoy the movie in general but I had to roll my eyes at the inevitable nude-hot-actress scene and the foolishness with Native American tropes.

Overall, my favorite part of this movie was Daniel Craig's ass. Daniel Craig's ass is a fine actor, particularly when perched atop a pair of leather chaps. It quietly stole every scene it was in without excessive emoting. I hear it is easy to work with and takes direction well. Really, Daniel Craig's ass does great work in any of its movies.

Well, it wasn't a good movie, and it wasn't a feminist movie, but one thing I can appreciate about the Olivia Wilde character was that she had her own agenda and motivations which she ultimately carried successfully. I thought her story, when we got to hear it, was a lot more interesting and sad than those of the other characters.

I also liked how it looked like there would be resistance to her joining the group, and then the leader just said,"Sure, why not?" I think the underlying message there was, "We know this isn't a good enough movie to treat gender issues in an interesting or groundbreaking manner, so we're just going to ignore them and get straight to blowing things up!"

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