I like a girl hero

I've been thinking (and thinking, and thinking...)  about Moonrise Kingdom, (there will be some mild spoilers), and it made me think of Emerald Barnes' post, "Why your Female Protagonist Doesn't Have to Kick-Butt to be Liked."

Suzy Bishop, other than a couple of outbursts of off-screen violence (as one of her classmates put it, occasionally she goes berserk), is not a kick-butt character. Stories are her thing.

When she runs away from home she brings a suitcase full of books and no clothes besides what she has on.

She reminds me of Isabelle in the movie Hugo, another girl who would probably pack books before anything else. And, like Isabelle, she may well grow up to be a writer. That's at least as cool as kicking butt.

Suzy allows Sam to take the lead as they cross the island because of his Khaki Scout training (though there are a couple of moments when she gives him wonderfully uneasy sidelong glances), and then she reads to him during the evening.

Suzy has very specific ideas about what kinds of books she likes: "I like stories with magic powers in them, either in kingdoms on Earth or on foreign planets. Usually I prefer a girl hero, but not always."

And the girl heroes in her books certainly do kick butt ("On the plains of Tabitha, Francine rested. There would be another time for war."). But Suzy doesn't and that's fine. All of her reading has led her astray in some ways, but that's fine, too.

Suzy: I always wished I was an orphan. Most of my favorite characters are. I think your lives are more special.
Sam: I love you, but you don't know what you're talking about.

(The tendency to romanticize orphans in stories comes up in Prometheus also, where David – who only knows about being human from movies – asks Elizabeth, "Doesn't everyone want their parents dead?" "I didn't," is her response.)

And it's Suzy's steady, serious gaze that draws us into the movie. The repeated image in the first few minutes of the film, before we know anything about the characters or the plot, is Suzy Bishop, looking directly at the camera. And she wants to tell us her story, as surely as she reads to Sam every night.

I was pleased to read this comment on the Internet Movie Database, because it shows that this movie has some fans even more obsessive than I am:

When Suzy is reading "Disappearance of the Sixth Grade" at the Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet campground and continues onto "Part Two" after Sam says to read on, it is just about the exact midway point of the film: the spoken words occur at 46:59, with 46:56 left in the movie. This moment also marks the transition of the film's plot, of course, so Suzy's "reading" also informs the audience of the shift in the movie's tone and direction.

I've watched the film again, and this is right. Suzy is addressing the audience, announcing the beginning of the second half of the movie. Telling us her story.

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5 Responses to I like a girl hero

  1. Hmm… this post made the movie sound quite a bit more interesting to me than what I’d read before. We’ll have to see if Dear Wife and I have an opportunity to catch it on video.

  2. It is difficult to describe, so I’m glad I made it sound like something you’d want to see. Hope you like it.

  3. sonje says:

    I remember the trailer for this movie, and I had no desire to see it. But you’ve made me consider it. Of course, I almost never watch movies anymore, so the odds are slim that I will watch this one, interested or not, but maybe….maybe….

    • The weird thing is that I have no memory of why I watched it in the first place (as I said, I didn’t like the only other movie of his that I saw), and now it’s taken over my brain. I’m watching it right now, in fact.

      I mean, I don’t really remember why I watched Serenity the first time either, for example, but at least that seems like a logical thing for me to do.

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