In recent years, the majority of movies are remakes or adaptations of other pieces of work. Most films recently released are all genre based films in which recognizable conventions and iconography are used. Sucker Punch is a fairly new film directed by Zack Snyder from 2011. Snyder’s Sucker Punch is created to appeal to the male audience with its varied male gendered genres fused into one film. Although the film’s target audience is male, the film is dominated by female characters. The main characters portray strong women who fight for themselves, yet seem to be bound by the power males hold over them.Order now
Through analysis of genre and style, as well as the application of the feminist theory, the films displays how the genre and film as a whole are affected by feminist theory proving that Sucker Punch is just another archetypical male action film. A genre uses its elements to help categorize a film in order to inform viewers of what they are about to watch (Giannetti & Leach, 2011, 52). Sucker Punch is established to be a film of combined genre of action and adventure through its use of action sequences as well as fantasy with its escapes to a parallel reality filled with mythical creatures as the characters embark on their journey to freedom.
Genre generally consists of the following elements: character types, settings, narrative conventions, stylistic conventions, iconography, and themes (Giannetti & Leach, 2011, 52). Baby Doll is the main character in which we follow as we watch her journey to freedom from her abusive step-father, the insane asylum, and brothel in her imagined reality. Baby Doll is the protagonist, the action hero in the movie accompanied by the other girls fighting the monsters in her mind in addition to those in real life.
Blue and Baby Doll’s step father are the villains whose abuse she must escape. There is also an apparent parallel between Baby Doll and her younger sister, to Sweet Pea and Rocket. Both older sisters start their fight for the well being of their younger sister, which results in the deaths of both younger sisters in order for the older one to be free; ultimately resulting in Baby Doll’s sacrifice for Sweet Pea’s survival. A second parallel can be made with Baby Doll’s mother and Madame or Dr. Gorski (Sumayao, 2011).
When Gorski is present in real life during Baby Doll’s dances, the girls succeed in attaining the items they seek out. Gorski is the one who initially encourages the girls’ escape into their own fabricated realities by saying, “What you are imagining right now, that world you control. That place can be as real as any pain. ” When Gorski is absent during their mission to steal the knife from the chef, Rocket is killed. This is comparable to the scene where Baby Doll’s mother dies, and she accidentally kills her own younger sister in attempts to stop her step father.
There is a lack of character development in which it makes it difficult for the audience to really sympathize for Baby Doll. Yes, Baby Doll had an evil step father and accidentally killed her younger sister, but when she is unable to escape the viewer feels apathetic due to the fact that most of the film she is just towards her as it is revealed that the story is really about Sweet Pea, foreshadowed near the start of the film. Many of the other character lack development as well, as Amber and Blondie are killed, no one really cares, Rocket is the only death that draws out any sort of sympathy.
Through the use of different realities and settings as well as the creatures the girls must conquer within those worlds, the fantasy genre is applied. There are numerous settings in Sucker Punch, the two principal settings being the Lennox mental institution and the brothel owned by Blue. Other diegetic settings within the movie consist of the Chinese temple, the war zone, a medieval castle, and lastly a train; all which appear in Baby Doll’s mind as she performs her dances. “Genre films reflect the ideology of the time it was made. Grant, B. (2012, January 20). Gender in Film. Lecture. Sucker Punch was made in 2011, where just about all the conventions and ideas of a typical action or adventure movie have been done. In this day in age, nearly everything has been already done, recycled, and lacks originality or creativity. Some have compared Sucker Punch to Christopher Nolan’s Inception due to its use of different realties (Mosley, 2011). Sucker Punch addresses just about all the male type genres through Baby Doll’s escapism.
From Chinese samurai fights, World War One battle fields fought by zombie-like creatures, to mythical creates such as orcs and fire breathing dragons protecting their castle. But unlike other movies which utilize different genres in one film in order to parody them, this film uses them in an attempt to appeal to all males. The film’s effects are excellent, fully utilizing present day technology to enhance the viewer’s experience, aside from the fact that the movie is takes place in the 1960’s.
Sucker Punch’s use of narrative and stylistic conventions as well as iconography contributes to the recognition of genre within the film. The plot essentially consists of a typical action and adventure movie where there is conflict, as Baby Doll and the other girls must fight their way to freedom, a climax, in which Baby Doll and Sweet Pea are on the brink of their escape, and lastly a resolution, where Baby Doll sacrifices herself, and Sweet Pea escapes on Wise Man’s bus. As previously mentioned, the film incorporates many different male genre movie styles into one film.
These different genres are recognized through iconography implicated in the settings and change in character types; such as the change of character of Blue Jones from Mental Institute worker to gangster and club owner in Baby Doll’s alternate reality. For example, the use of samurai swords and warriors in Baby Doll’s first escape into her fabricated reality are used to incorporate old samurai/ninja movies. In addition to scenes such as the war battle with zombie soldiers, later followed by dragon’s and castles addressing the fantasy and mythical genre.
The use of different themes is another characteristic used to familiarize a film with certain genres. The themes most prominent within the film are the themes of revenge and escape which are both themes associated with action and fantasy films. Baby Doll sets out to escape and to free the other abused girls with an ambition to avenge her sister’s accidental death. Feminist film theory was initially generated by feminists in order to study and analyze the roles and stereotypes of female characters within films.
The feminist theory consists of two main themes, the gaze and female spectator, and realism and counter cinema. The male gaze is a theory formulated by Laura Mulvey in her “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” essay which is “considered a historical document by many in feminist film theory and film studies,” (Manlove, C. 2007). Sucker Punch is commercially advertised to appeal to teenage fan-boys and the male gender in general. The movie obviously objectifies the female actors through stereotypes, costume, and most apparent of all; names.
From the beginning the film objectifies the main character whose name is Baby Doll as she is passed on from one man, her step father, to another, Blue Jones, a worker at the Lennox asylum, as if she were a commodity. From there on, Baby Doll is dressed in provocative clothing, such as school girl clothing and burlesque costumes. The rest of the girls who accompany her on her journey to break free of Jones all have similar demeaning names; Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie (who does not even happen to be blonde), and Amber.
Throughout the movie shots of their bodies and barely-there attire are shot up close and shown on screen. In order to distract her enemies, Baby Doll must perform provocative dances in which Sweet Pea criticizes saying “gyrating and moaning… a dance should be about more than titillation. ” Alongside the objectification of women within the film which accompanies the gaze, there is a constant use of phallic shaped items throughout the movie (Prince, 1988). The main example of this is Baby Doll’s sword given to her by the Wise man.
The way Baby Doll grasps and uses the sword and gun is to appeal to the male gender; a beautiful, sexy character yielding dangerous weapons, using them to kill monsters in her parallel reality as well as real life. It may be argued that Sucker Punch’s female characters embody female empowerment and that the film acts as a counter cinema, women fighting for their freedom from the insane asylum or brothel, while scantily clothed in lingerie and skimpy school girl’s clothing. A scene that exemplifies this is when Blue Jones asks Baby Doll “Did you lose your fight, huh? and looking straight into his eyes she responds, “No, I just found it. ” However, despite the fact that these girls are fighting for what they believe in and against the males who own and over power them it is the lack of character development and objectification that make the concept of female empowerment ineffective. Although the movie is dominated by female characters, it is the three male characters with main parts that seem to hold all the power. Through their failure and trail of obvious and foolish attempts at acquiring the items they need, the film still displays men outsmarting the females.
In the end it is not without Wise Man’s help that Sweet Pea escapes the authorities and is able to sit on the bus back to freedom. Through the determination of genre, style, and application of feminist theory, it is concluded that Sucker Punch is not a film of female empowerment. Applying the different characteristics of genre found within the film, despite the different types of genre present, it is confirmed that the most dominant are action/adventure and fantasy.
In addition to using feminist film theory, which suppresses any reason to argue this film as a film of female empowerment, brings to light that the movie somehow tells a story where women are inferior to men. The movie is entertaining at times, but grows tired and boring through the middle. The film seems to be more about style and appealing to too many types of genre it is also cliche in its implication of conventions, resulting in a lack of substance.
Giannetti, Louis, and Leach, Jim. (2011). Understanding Movies.
Toronto: Pearson Canada.
Grant, B. (2012, January 20). Gender in Film. Lecture. Lecture conducted from Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada.
Manlove, C. (2007). Visual “Drive” and Cinematic Narrative: Reading Gaze Theory in Lacan, Hitchcock, and Mulvey. Cinema journal, 46. 83-84
Mosley, A.(2011, January 6). Dreams and Imagination: Inception vs. Sucker Punch. Acrentropy. Retrieved from
Prince,S. (1988). The Pornographic Image and the Practice of Film Theory.
Cinema journal, 27. 27-26
Sumayao, M. (2011, March 28). Why Sucker Punch is Smarter than You Think.
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