Misogyny. Pedophilia. Multiple attempted rapes. Disenfranchisement of women, on a ton of levels.
Let's break these down, because I'm pissed off, and because that movie was the absolute antithesis of everything I ever want my fiction to do. I think I'll go chronologically, because if I go one at a time, I'll lose all the threads.
Opening scene. Protag's mother dies, leaving her and her sister with lecherous step-father. Protag denies stepfather's advances. Stepfather (presumably) rapes younger sister, then kills her. Then frames protag for it, and gets her sent to a mental institution. Once there, the protag's depressed mental state changes her surroundings to some sort of bordello -- i shit you not -- where she and other girls "her age" dance for men with money and power, becoming their "clients" and "satisfying" them on rotating beds with red satin sheets. While experiencing this understandable duress, the film dips down into another level, where the protag dances -- and when she dances, while her clients are captivated by her spandexed crotch, the movie switches into complicated battle scenes, wherein she levels up and acquires the skills and the items that she'll need to eventually free herself from her confines.
Did i mention that this movie is PG-13?It's PG-motherfucking-13.
Here's the thing -- it feels like this movie was some 15 yr old boy, with a very loose grasp on what makes women women, wanted to write a female empowerment film. So he gave the protag some dire-ass circumstances to rise over. But she's disenfranchised on EVERY LEVEL. Again, we'll begin at the beginning.
So the attempted rape by the stepfather. It's awful. Can you imagine being a 13 yr old girl and having to -- once again -- see someone whose bigger and stronger than you come after you? Like in every other movie produced by a pedobear?
The entire time in the movie, the protag has a babydoll face. Hey, guess what her name is? BABYDOLL. It's like they didn't even fucking try. She's ultra-blonde, with pouty lips, and to be fair, she's gorgeous, and she can actually act. Unfortunately all she's given to act in is repeated sequences of beginning to dance slowly and unhappily with a "No, Daddy, no!" face on or action scenes (which we'll get too shortly.)
They make a big point of "filling in her paperwork" when she arrives at the institution, and point out on there that she's 20.
Whooopie-shit. She doesn't look 20. None of them look older than 16. Not a single one.
The bordello thing seems just to be a way to keep the girls wearing spandex and corsets. The men leer at them, leer on them, openly drool, brag about how much money her virginity is going to make them with a "high roller" and threaten to rape them continually. I'm not kidding, there were SIX SEPARATE ATTEMPTED RAPES in this film.
How can that be legal to show to 13 yr old girls. Is this how we want to show them the world is? Men value you only because of the way you look, your perceived virginity, the way you dance, and once you get older (like the dance instructor in the film) you'll be discarded? What kind of values are those to promote? What the fucking what.
It's one thing if you as an adult want to go watch some porn with that in it. I'm all for that. But don't tell me the protag is "20" and then make your fucking film PG-13 and film trailers that make it look vaguely about female empowerment and then do this. Don't even fucking try.
The action scenes. Where the purported empowerment occurs. The thing that drew me to this film -- because I've learned already from decades as a fantasy reader that women have to fight in high heels and bikini-armor. I can cope with that unreality. If a girl is kicking ass somewhere, I'm there, I want to see it.
But in this film? Whose ass does she kick? Mecha-ass. Dragon-ass. Steampunk-Nazi ass. Demon-ass. Armored-knight-ass.
Do any of them bleed? No. Were any of them men? No. So she's kick ass...but she's not strong enough to fight against the things that empower her? I understand that this is somehow to get a PG-13 rating -- her action-instructor actually tells her at one point, when they're steampunk-nazi fighting "They're just reanimated corpses." Because YOU CAN'T SHOW HER FIGHTING MEN. What a backwards negative kind of compliment is this? You can only fight these things that anyone could fight and win.
(I'm trying to think of metaphors -- it's like in the new MMA fighting game where the girl characters can only go head to head against other girl characters, because showing them fighting men would be bad. Or how in books there'll be five good guys, one of them a girl, and they'll go head to head with five demons...one of who is also, conveniently a girl. Because ladies can't fight boys! That's crazy-talk! God bless you Buffy Summers for your equal opportunity ass-kicking. Somedays I wonder if we will ever see your like again.)
Now mind you, the intro into each action scene, is someone booting up club music, and then protag getting a "Daddy, stop!" look on her face as she begins to grind, before the into-action fade.
She doesn't even own the grinding. And i know this is a small thing, in the large scale problems that this film had. But she's not even a, "Hey, now we're on my turf, I fucking own this spandex unitard they've got me in, here-we-motherfucking-go!" No. Just, "But Daddy!" in her eyes, and then the cut over to improbably action sequences perpetrated on creatures that might as well be ghostly punching bags.
At the end, there's a big escape sequence -- after more attempted rape scenes and dancing and "action", if it can truly be called that. She's got her most glittery glamorous sailor suit on (i'm not kidding) and she realizes then that she needs to sacrifice herself to save her friend.
Ooookay. So. She goes out into the parking lot, where all the hired henchmen of all the "clients" inside the bordello are, to distract them with her glittery thigh-highed self.
It looked disturbingly like the beginning of a gang-rape. She kicks one guy in the balls, and we fade over to where her friend is escaping.
But what's happening to our protag, you ask? Well. You're not shown, but you know. They can't be blamed for what we assume, after all -- and I mean, sheesh, she is 20, we saw it on a fucking form, right? So all that implied stuff, that's all on me, and in my head. Clearly that's not what was actually in the film. Fucking clear as day.
What actions did she actually get to take on anyone? In person? For real, not in action-land, herself? She stabbed an orderly and kicked one guy in the balls. That's it. Six attempted rape scenes (and really, the implication isn't that they all stopped, it's clearly a rape-culture in bordello-land) and shes...won? Because she's kicked one guy in the balls? Really?
We fade back to the real-real reality, and her stepfather's bribed someone to forge paperwork to get her lobotomized. Guess what. She gets lobotomized. Then, and only then, the system steps in to save her, and the guy who forged things -- after getting his henchmen to PUT HER LOBOTOMIZED HELPLESS SELF IN A CHAIR IN A CLOSET -- starts to mack on her -- THEN the system saves her and the people in charge realize things are Not Right. She's LOBOTOMIZED now, but hey, here comes the system to finally save her! And...her friend got out!
Her mother failed her by dying, her stepfather failed her by trying to rape her, by raping her sister, and by committing her and signing her up for a lobo. The police are clearly shown believing her stepfather, the shrink believes the orderlies who say she's insane, the doctor who lobomizes her does so without actually talking to her to see if she needs it, even one of her dancer/institution friends turns on her.
THERE IS NO ONE WHO STANDS UP FOR HER AT ALL. NOT UNTIL SHE IS MADE BRAIN DEAD.
Do your really want to tell the girls of America that no one has their back? Don't give me that self-sufficient "but the power was within you all along"! bullshit. That shit DOES NOT APPLY HERE. Girls who don't feel like anyone has their back, you know what happens to them? Meth happens to them. You never know the power was fucking in you all along if no one else ever fucking saw it there. That's how it is to be a girl in America.
And can you imagine being a girl and seeing this film? And instead of learning anything empowering from it, the take home message is, "Hey, if you don't get raped, and you've gotten a lobotomy to escape things, you've won!"
WHAT THE FUCK.
I don't think I've ever seen a more morally bankrupt film in my entire life. And whoever made this piece of shit film PG-13 should be ashamed of themselves.
Ironically, the things that would have saved this film would be either going deeper, and actually portraying all the violence -- turning it into some sort of horrible Lolita-by-way-of-Tarantino situation -- or staying out of the violence entirely and playing the whole fucking thing for laughs. If this movie were an anime, it would have worked -- because the Japanese would have shown the bullets hitting her, and her bullets hitting real men, and it would have been fierce and visceral and honest. This defanged aberration disempowers women by not showing the actual violence -- though of course using the implications of it to further the plot! -- and by using its message to titillate instead of horrify. The protag has no traction, no power to change things, no one at her back. At. All.
I can't imagine if i'd taken my friend's daughter to it. Or if I'd gone to go see it with my dad. This movie made me physically want to puke.
Don't see it. Don't let anyone you know see it. May it fade as it deserves, into the darkness, fucking far and away.