Once upon a time, there was a man named George Lucas….
And if you don’t know who he is – what – have you been living under a rock since the 1970’s?
Anyway, back in 1988 just nine days before I celebrated my first birthday, the movie Willow hit screens.
Wikipedia describes Willow as a “British-american high fantasy film.” Husband described it as “like the hobbit, but different.” Prior to watching the film I knew these things:
- It was about a dwarf who finds a baby and has to do something with it
- It has Val Kilmer in it
- George Lucas wrote it
- Ron Howard directed it
- It’s not on Amazon Prime OR Netflix
I was very prepared to be vastly underwhelmed by the movie. BUT Husband was very adamant that I watch it, so we went on our own quests of sorts to find a copy of the movie.
So – earlier this week, we pop the DVD into the Playstation and I settle into the couch with hopes that it won’t be too boring or corny.
It was corny. But it was also made in 1988 so the special effects of the time are just part of the charm.
I promise, I’m getting to the point of this post.
I really LOVED the film.
What I realized as I watched it was how the film was pretty feminist WITHOUT taking away from the male characters.
The film is about this evil queen that is all freaked out because the Seers have foretold of a baby girl being born that will be the sign of the queen’s downfall. So – evil queen impressions all the pregnant women in her kingdom and waits for the baby (identifiable by a special birth mark) to be born. Once the baby is born, it gets snuck out by the midwife and found by the dwarf. He’s told by this Queen of the Fairies to take the baby to find this enchantress who will help him and the baby. While all of this is going on, the warrior-princess and some pretty intense soldiers are hunting the baby to being it back to the queen so she can do this ritual on it. Willow (the dwarf) teams up with Val Kilmer who helps with all the fighting and whatnot. When Val Kilmer and Warrior-Princess meet, they start to fall for each other. As foretold, Warrior-Princess changes sides and helps Willow and Val. Eventually, there’s a big fight over the baby between the evil queen and the enchantress. Willow comes in and saves the day, but not after these two older women take some pretty intense beatings from one another.
Alright – here’s why I think it’s feminist but NOT femma-nazi.
The women characters all have SOME sort of power (physical or magical) as well as agency. Agency is the key word here. It means that the characters have the ability to act for themselves. Sleeping Beauty – for example – lacks agency. All her abilities (in the fairy tale) are given to her when she’s a baby, she doesn’t have to work for anything, and wakes up to a husband after a long nap. The women in this film, all have the ability to make decisions on what they want to do, and they do it. This is best shown by the warrior-princess changing sides. Yes, she does it for a man – but who cares? It was HER decision. And, she can kick his ass if she ever needs to.
Also, the human society overall seems to be more matriarchal (the dwarves are a bit more patriarchal – and there’s nothing wrong with that) . The queen doesn’t have a king and isn’t being threatened of losing her position in the kingdom by her daughter getting married, or being forced to marry again, OR by any sort of male. She’s threatened by being replaced by another woman.
Alright, and here’s where it gets good. No one is complete in their strength. The male heroes very much seem to compliment and fill in the gaps for the females and vice versa. Which is awesome, if you ask me.
So here’s my big issue with in your face feminist movies and whatnot. A lot of the time, it’s kinda in your face and you’re forced to be aware of it. And, if you’re anything like me, you don’t appreciate that. Also, not sure if there’s any real proof, but it would seem to me that if the message is more subtle, it’s more likely to seep into someone’s subconscious and then really start the wheels going.
Also, and this is something that I hear a lot, it seems that in children’s books, films, and even TV/ commercials, the women are strong at the men’s expense. For example, I loved the Berenstain Bears books, but my Dad hated them. He’d tell my mom that he didn’t like that the Dad was such a doofus and was worried I’d start to see him like that.
For me, feminism is about being proud of my gender, embracing the things that make women women, but – mostly – it’s about equality. Feminists will rant and criticize movies where the women are less than the males – but not when the coin is flipped. And that bothers me.
So – that’s why I really appreciated the movie. The women and the men all had their own kind of power and agency, but never at the expense of anyone else. They all had their special role to fill.
Anyway… that’s my rambling review of Willow.