I have said in this blog that I write arts-life crossover
stories, as opposed to artistic criticism.
I have said, too, that I don’t tend to write about productions I don’t
Why? Because I have seen a film that very much troubles me. And I saw it before I heard the furore.
Usually I go to the cinema to see a particular director or actor’s work. Or I go because I’m interested in the story. Occasionally I go to a random film because that’s what is on when I am meeting a friend at a particular location. This was one of those occasions, and random is what our experience turned out to be.
Kingsman is an action comedy which appeared to suit our Friday evening mood. It was never going to be a great film, the premise too far-fetched and the characters so light they are flimsy. However the film is entertaining, sometimes slick, fun and silly. That is not a negative observation as the same can be said of some of my writing, it is just what it is. For most of the film it also ‘does what is says on the packet’. It bubbles along and gives you a giggle. So far so good...
Until, that is, you get to the final scene. You may have heard about the controversy and if not you should. Because what the makers of this film have done by way of a substitute for a real ending is disgraceful. Indeed I would go so far as to say, criminal.
If you think I’m exaggerating, let me ask:
· Do you agree, over history, that it is a travesty warriors have arrived in a place and, no sooner asserted their authority, gone on to rape and pillage?
· Do you think a super hero, a special agent, or anyone acting the part of a ‘protector’ should take advantage of the vulnerable?
· Do you agree there are standards and values which popular cultural has some responsibility to uphold?
· Do you agree that sexism is wrong?
· Do you agree that information which is disseminated and shown to be discriminatory – especially in Great Britain, the United States and countries claiming the moral high ground – should be allowed to circulate in the public realm without repercussions?
· Do you think power should be used wisely and women and young people protected?
· And do you agree that a film should be classified as suitable for young people if the contents of that film – physical or psychological – could harm them?
If you have answered yes to any or all of these questions then even before you know the details you should appraise Kingsman with your eyes open.
I am not a prude; nor is the young woman, Emma, seated with me in the cinema. She is educated, in her early twenties, and working at the London School of Economics. Yet we were utterly shocked by the sudden turn of this film. Indeed everyone in the cinema was stunned; the general reaction one of jaw-dropping silence. We, and many, are appalled by what the makers of this film – and those who released it – think is an acceptable way to end a film in the 21st Century.
Has the fight for women’s rights, for respect and equality, receded that far?
Is sexism so entrenched such that the people who contributed to the decision to leave that ridiculous scene in the film can no longer see it? Or can they see it but just don’t care?
Or do men really feel that it is not only acceptable, but humorous, to send a message to young people around the world that it is normal and impressive for a conquering male to use his power to take extreme sexual liberties where and how he may?
I make no judgement on anal sex. What consenting adults do in their own beds doesn’t concern me in the least. It is the context here which is so reprehensible:
· the woman offering up her “arsehole”, as she so elegantly puts it, is captive and reliant upon the hero for her release from prison
· the hero has champagne and acts as if it’s all a laugh and why shouldn’t he – a virile and conquering male – get from the damsel in distress what all men want (so it suggests)
· the woman doesn’t know him and has had no relationship with him (barely with the audience)
· there is no intimacy or respect
· there is no relevance to the story
· there is an underlying aggression about his desire (and his arrogance)
· there is aggression too in the implied need for him to take the one thing left on this rescued planet that he hasn’t yet conquered
· the scene is utterly gratuitous and in the worst possible taste
· the scene, the ending, lacks any creative credibility or real imagination
· and it ruins an otherwise frivolous romp of a narrative - undermining anything of value which has gone before (including all the performances)
I didn’t need to read a review to know that this ‘ending’ was a spoof on the ending of James Bond films, where Bond always scores the girl. But that excuse from the director is as pathetic as the scene itself – because it lacks all Bond charm and class. Even the Bond franchise has grown with the times and wouldn’t dream of being so crass.
Kingsman is a desperate wannabe and – unless the ending is changed - it doesn’t deserve an audience. Nor does it deserve for it to be allowed to continue to play in cinemas, or God Forbid, on television.
We should all be considering this very seriously.
What message is this widely released film sending young women and boys – children from ten to twenty-five years – who have limited sexual and sensual experience? For it seems to me, and the girlfriend who saw it with me, to suggest that women are to be conquered as and how a man pleases, and it is the woman’s job to comply, to lie down and take it, whether she wants it or not – and especially if she is in a position without power and therefore reliant upon him for her liberty.
Where is the respect? Where are the women who were involved in this process of decision-making and who did not stand up and say “this is not acceptable now or ever”? Or did they, but weren’t heard? Because doesn’t that tell you what a fight we still have on our hands to resist the ugly tentacles of sexism?
For make no mistake (and again I say this without reading any other commentary), any film-goer knows that this was not a decision made by a few people, but many - many men and women over many months from draft scripts, to approved script, in the shooting, editing, post-production, marketing, classification and release of the movie. This is no accident or over-sight. The ending chosen for this film is intentionally arrogant and shocking – and every single one of these people should be ashamed of themselves.
And so should we if we do nothing about it.
And so should we if we do nothing about it.
I have never been as depressed at the end of a film as I was at the end of Kingsman – because I thought the world had made some progress.
It is no wonder we can’t protect girls and women from enforced circumcision in other parts of the world, from every sort of enslavement, if we think a film with an ending like Kingsman is acceptable.
It isn’t even funny.
We need to find and harness our outrage. Don’t reserve it for the current episodes of Selfridge, where one hundred years ago women and men seemed to have more fight for the subject of sexism.
All the young boys and girls you care about are relying on you.
P.S. If you want to see a film which takes discrimination head on, which moves you, is worth the ticket price, and leaves you (and the world) uplifted and inspired, then give Kingsman a big miss... and see SELMA. Everyone involved in that project can be proud.