Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sexist Content in Timecrimes

Timecrimes (originally Los Cronocrímenes), written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, is an intriguing time travel strange loop movie. In the style of a classic science-fiction short story, the protagonist Hector is an average guy (actually kind of a doofus) who winds up in strange circumstances, rather than a scientist or someone who knows what he’s doing. The film has some elements of sexism, though I’m not sure how much was unintentional. The two female characters, Hector’s wife Clara and The Girl in the Forest (La Chica en el Bosque), are disrespected by Hector within the story and are treated more like objects as he tries to manipulate the timeline.
The plot is simple… not.
Hector (Hector-1) is driven by encounters with The Girl, a scary man with his head wrapped in pink bandages, and a lab worker to enter a tub of white liquid (the time machine). He travels an hour and a half to the past, becoming Hector-2. Hector-2 gets in a car accident, and then bandages his head. The white liquid mingles with the red blood and turns the bandage pink. Hector-2 runs into The Girl and he forces her at scissors-point to act out the events that attract Hector-1 so he can chase Hector-1 into the time machine, getting the lab worker to help him convince Hector-1. Hector-2 goes home to find The Girl hiding from him there. He chases her onto the roof, sees her shoes and pulls her down, which causes her to fall off the roof and die. He then sees she’s actually his wife, so he decides to alter the timeline, gets the worker to send him back in time to 40 seconds earlier than Hector-2’s arrival, and he becomes Hector-3.
Hector-3 tries to kill Hector-2 by ramming his car, causing the car accident, and is knocked out until much later. The Girl finds him on the run from Hector-2 and doesn’t recognize him without the bandages, and he walks around with her while purportedly running from him. They enter his house, when Hector-2 comes and scares them. Clara comes home and, terrified of the man with the bandages, calls the police. Hector-3 tells Clara to wait for him in the shed and locks her in, then going to the Girl. He dresses her up like Clara, and sends her up to the roof. Hector-2 then kills The Girl and thinks it’s Clara, going off to become Hector-3. It’s a happy ending for Hector-3, now the main Hector, as he’s saved his wife, but The Girl was horribly victimized. You have to wonder what he’ll say to the police.
Simple, right? And yet, it’s a strange loop still easier to understand than The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Anyway, there is objectification early in the movie, when Hector-1 is looking around at the woods behind his house with binoculars. He sees evidence of human activity and looks around to investigate. He then sees The Girl standing out in the woods, biting her thumb, apparently thinking about something. Continuing to watch her, he sees her pull off her shirt, exposing her breasts.
At this time, Clara is there next to him, trying to talk to him about whether or not he wants chicken for dinner. He basically ignores her, as he’s too busy watching The Girl. He doesn’t mention to Clara what he’s looking at, even when The Girl starts undressing, and continues watching her. Eventually, she leaves to go into town, clearly annoyed.
Being a pervert, Hector-1 goes for a walk to try to get a closer look at The Girl. He follows a trail of clothing into the woods, until he finds her naked and unconscious. Hector-1 eyes her naked body for a while, the camera along with him, before he tries to wake her up (and bolt before she sees him). He then approaches her, apparently to see if she’s alright (at least I hope), but up until this point he’s just been a pervert.
Later, when he time travels and becomes Hector-2, the lab worker sits him down to explain just what the frak’s going on. Hector-2 seems concerned about the other man in his house with his wife, though he eventually catches on about the time travel. The lab worker describes Hector-1 as like a reflection in the mirror, essentially the same as Hector-2, and that Hector-2 has to conform to the way things went when he was Hector-1 or else Hector-1 will never go back in time and become Hector-2. However, the explanation is worded in a way to emphasize the fact that if Hector-2 doesn’t do this, then he’ll be cuckolded by Hector-1. This is a small aspect of the movie, but the disrespectful treatment of the female characters adds up.
Hector-2 at first doesn’t listen and tries to make contact with Hector-1. Partway to his house, his car is struck (by Hector-3) and he crashes. The Girl, traveling along the road on a bicycle, comes to help. Realizing he needs her to be in the forest to draw Hector-1, he repays her kindness by basically sexually assaulting her. He threatens her with a sharp instrument and forces her into the woods, where he makes her undress for what amounts to his own (Hector-1’s) sexual satisfaction. Yes, this is to keep the timeline intact, but why does it even exist? She attacks him, and he knocks her unconscious, going on to stripping her for Hector-1 to find.
Then at the end, we have the conflict with The Girl and Clara. Clara is not treated as a person in her own right. She’s just an item Hector-2/Hector-3 wants to keep safe. He feels a great attachment to her, and wants her to live for his sake rather than the respect for human life. The Girl has always been objectified, from the first time Hector(-1) saw her, to Hector-2’s coercion of her to attract Hector-1, and she ends objectified when Hector-3 kills her to save Clara. When it’s all over, Hector-3 doesn’t explain to Clara what’s going on. He just brings her out to the yard and makes her sit in the lawn chair next to him while the police come.
I think the ending is supposed to be twisted and give viewers an uncomfortable feeling as they watch it. Yes, Hector has fixed the timeline to his liking, but he’s done something evil to do so. The character itself is written to be immoral, so I’m not sure how much blame can be put on Vigalondo for producing sexist content. However, the whole series of instances Hector encounters and must reproduce involve this objectification and sexual assault for no reason other than it suiting Vigalondo’s purposes.
In conclusion, this twisted-up strange loop time travel story, though amusing, contains noticeable elements of sexism. Women characters are constantly disrespected. Though the protagonist is himself depicted as immoral, the existence of certain events within the strange loop (having no detectable cause but themselves) indicate sexism of the narrative rather than thematic depiction of it. So: enjoyable movie, but problematic content.

1 comment:

John Morgan said...

Hi, first time reader last time viewer. You're clearly intelligent so why dont you put that to good use rather than nitpick through movies trying to find ways to get angry?

If you want to see sexism and complain why dont you watch Kill Bill where hundreds of men are cut into pieces by a blonde women in a comedic fashion. Or the fact that woman are always killed in movies with strong emotional impact, however, men are cut into pieces and ripped apart like disposable rag dolls without a second thought.

But no one cares about that...