Feminist Movie Review! Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters



            This movie was, in a word, horrible.  Admittedly it starts from a fairy tale that plays heavily on an archetype of older women that portrays them as evil. The existence of witches in fairy tales show society’s uselessness for the aging woman, it’s fear of the single woman, and it’s demonization of feminine sexuality. So, why any self-respecting filmmaker would create a movie based on such a feminist abomination in the first place is beyond me.


            To look beyond the obvious lack of character development, and then the cookie-cutter ending, I shall focus my feminist analysis by looking mainly at Gretel, as well as other female characters.


            Gretel in particular lacks any sort of development. She abides by liberal feminist standards of possessing male traits, and succeeding in a patriarchal structure. For example, she is physically strong, and fights the “bad guys” with all sorts of weaponry and force. In classic masculine style, she shoots first and talks later. This same structure forces her to step aside and be saved by men, whether this saviour came in the form of a troll, the geeky sidekick, or her brother. Needless to say, Gretel conforms to sexual expectations for her, by dressing in tight-fitting leather. Gratuitious shots of her cleavage and legs abound. She comes across as a particularly shell-like creation, more of a Mary-Sue than a heroine.


            The other female characters don’t fare much better. Both of the “good witches” perish. Joy is taken in slaying women, and one woman is falsely accused of being a witch. The female characters aren’t friends. Witches are either old hags, or hyper-sexualized. Even Mina the White Witch ends up getting it on with Hansel. It is worth noting that she helps to save Hansel several times, making her a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s whimsical, eccentric, and serves the purpose of furthering our hero in his journey, dying once he’s finished. The final fight scene is absolutely rife with racial stereotypes: kung fu witches from Japan being the main offensive example.


            It is worth mentioning that the movie passes the Bechdel Test, as Gretel interrogates and speaks to several witches. Although Hansel is heavily involved in the conversations, and they are clearly on different sides, Bechdel’s law stands.


            The story is an uncritical, made-to-sell version that refuses to analyze the forces at work in creating the characters in the original fairy tale. Old widowed women portrayed as witches who steal children is inherently problematic, and plays on fears of single women that should be evident to anyone writing a script based off of the classic fairytale. I think it’s obvious by now that I was not a fan of Hansel & Gretel, a movie that I will not mince words for. The fact that the ending set up for a sequel is just the icing on the (remarkably sexist) cake. 


Feminist Movie Review: The Invisible War

Today, I post my first ever feminist movie review! I’m starting out with an easy one. This movie takes a fairly blatantly liberal feminist standpoint. The Invisible War is a documentary about rape and sexual assault of female (and male) soldiers in the American military. The trailer for the film can be found here:

The Invisible War: Sundance Trailer

Firstly, I’d like to commend filmmaker Kirby Dick on tackling such a complex and insidious problem. Director Kirby Dick approaches the story from various angles, cover a vast amount of problems encountered by the victims. For example, women and one man give their stories in order to illustrate the issues for viewers. The aftershock of the assault is depicted in a legal, emotional, familial, medical way… but the list goes on, really. Each woman’s story is different.

Within a masculine institution such as the military, every systemic disadvantage is forced on those who come forward to confront the patriarchy. For example, women who have come forward have been charged with adultery, when they weren’t married… their perpetrator was. Covering problems like this, that are often invisible to other people, is part of the allure of the film.

Secondly, I felt as though the format of the film was very appropriate and effective. By interviewing individuals, and playing it into the legal and social issues surrounding sexual abuse in the military, I felt like Dick allowed viewers a personalized view into the effect of a sexual assault in the military, while not losing sight of the bigger picture.

Now, for a bit of a critique. My critique focuses on Dick’s theoretical approach to the subject matter of his film. What I just couldn’t agree with was the glorification of war. Patriotism to the point of wanting to kill other people, or risk one’s own life, has never sat well with me. That is a massive oversimplification of what the U.S. military does, but it is definitely a problematic institution, and not only because of the sexual assault rates.

Realist theory would imply that no one state can disarm itself, or it would risk upsetting the current balance of power. Being the dominant theory in the Western world, this does make sense to me. I do not expect, or want, an instant disarmament of any country. But the tactics being used to draw people into the military include inducing a feeling of extreme patriotism. Fighting for your country is seen as a duty. In the film, most of the women felt disillusioned following their sexual assault and subsequent despicable treatment by the military institutions. Often their spouses or partners also leave the military, or suffer a sort of psychological conflict between their previously held beliefs, and the reassessing after the sexual assault.

Furthermore, the participation of women in a traditionally (and still) masculine institution was not addressed at all. The women who succeed in the military are those who embody masculine traits, masculine ideals. War is masculine. It would have been very interesting to look more into how the patriarchal culture and the emphasis on brotherhood played into sexual assault and it’s prevalence in the U.S. army.

I greatly enjoyed the movie. I found it to be informative and well-structured. It got across the message effectively, and the message given was a very important one. Of course, it must be said, that the film was mostly in line with my own ideals… perhaps contributing to my enjoyment of it! Despite the glorification of war, and unaddressed conflicts between the feminine and masculine, I would give it three and a half stars out of five stars. Go see it, and tell me what you think!

As an aside, here’s some books by authors who were interviewed as a part of the movie. Worth checking out:

Porcelain on Steel by Donna McAleer

The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq by Helen Benedict