Every month we look at movies related to the topic of the month, as film culture is often a mirror of thoughts and values in society. For this month’s topic, Matriarchy, I looked at three very popular movies I Am not an Easy Man, The Devil Wears Prada and Wonder Woman Read below how these two movies portray (or also misportray) Matriarchy. And no worries, there will be no spoilers!
Je ne suis pas un homme facile (2018)
The French film I Am not an Easy Man, in English, was directed by Eleonore Pourriat. This film tells the story of a powerful man known as Don Juan who wakes up in a world dominated by women after a violent bump to his head. Before that chock, he was a successful man holding a powerful position in society, behaving in a rather sexist way. Hence, he is used to controlling women with his wealth or his influential position. Thus, when he wakes up from his faintness, he finds himself in a vulnerable position and in the need to please women to obtain what he wants. He falls in love with a female writer for whom he does everything possible to appeal to her. With this experience, the main character experienced sexist commentaries and assaults on a daily basis which led him to discover what women were experiencing on a daily basis under the patriarchy before the hit he had received. In this film, it is interesting to see the difference of gendered experiences regarding sexims, life opportunities and discriminations, and the man finally notices the types of discrimination endured by women in the patriarchy by being a victim of a fictional matriarchal society. However, the concept of matriarchy in this film is pictured as the strict opposite of the patriarchy, as the domination of one gender over others. Whereas the matriarchy has often been (mis-)conceptualised as such, it actually denotes a form of hierarchy influenced by the traditional feminine gender role, which is described as more horizontal and participative than the patriarchal hierarchy. Thus, the matriarchal system would not be as toxic as the patriarchy or as the matriarchy is pictured in this film. As a whole, the film misconceptualized the concept of matriarchy but it is nonetheless influential because it allows us to uncover gendered stereotypes and constructs affecting our daily lives. It is more useful to show how misogyny and sexism works by putting men in this situation in a matriarchal world.
This film can be found on Netflix.
The Devil wears Prada (2006)
This U.S American film by David Frankel was inspired by the roman of Lauren Weisberger published in 2003. It shows the life of a young professional woman who has just arrived in New York. She obtains what is seen as the dreaming job at a famous fashion magazine as the personal assistant of a tyrannical editor in chief. The role of this young woman entering the workplace is played by Anne Hathaway and the powerful well-known editor in chief by Meryl Streep. Miranda’s character, the editor in chief, was inspired by Anna Wintour being the editor in chief of Vogue. Funny enough, many important fashion brands gave some clothes for the film but a lot of them refused to have their name cited in the film out of fear to upset Anna Wintour. The latter, even though her opinion is often feared, enjoyed the film especially Meryl Streep’s acting. This film points out another kind of matriarchal example. Here powerful women are pictured but they still live in a patriarchal society because it is stated in a realistic world and influenced by a real person: Anna Wintour. Indeed, within the magazine of Miranda mostly women occupy high positions such as hers. In this way, it can be seen as an example of matriarchy with Miranda as the main leader. Again in this story, the norms of power and high potion seeking resembles the patriarchal ones with the omnipresence of women as the main difference. The main character has to work hard to prove her worth in the team. She learns from her cold and tyrannical boss how to be respected at work as well as to harden herself. In this film once again seeking power means following traditional masculine gender norms as showing no emotions, being cold, being tough, being harsh and confident. In this way, it is a matriarchy evolving within a patriarchal societal structure and thus, reiterating these gendered ideals.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman was released in 2017. It is an American superhero film based on the DC Wonder Woman Comic Book series. The character’s first appearance in the DC Universe was in the Sensation Comics published in 1942 and who later joined the DC family definitely. The movie was directed by Patty Jenkins and protagonised by Gal Gadot; it tells the story of Princess Diana of Themyscira, better known for her civilian alias as Diana Prince. Daughter of Queen Hippolyta, born and raised in the home of the Amazon warriors, the island of Themyscira. The Amazons were women warriors created by the Olympian gods for the mere task of protecting mankind. Diana was trained as the best of the warriors. The plot narrates how she leaves the island with an American Pilot to try and put an end to World War I, but things get tricky when Ares joins the picture.
DC history claims that such character was inspired by early feminist thinking. Nonetheless, the movie has been highly criticised for the sexualization of the female heroine, objectification of the Amazons and main character, the mythological inaccuracy – together with the fact that was made by a male director – it has open the debate if Diana can really be celebrated as a feminist icon? It is also important to consider that DC stories have also been highly criticised for glorifying militarism, endorsing white saviorism and toxic masculinity. If it is not a movie that specifically passes the Bechdel test, it is one that could appeal to matriarchal ideals and women empowerment. Nevertheless, it is fundamental to watch it with a wide-open critical eye.