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Trinity from the Matrix has inspired several girls. Or was she merely a secondary to Neo? Why are women in action films always comical, the author explores.
I was twelve when I first saw The Matrix films (1999-2003).
As I saw Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) fighting on screen, my mind was blown. She wore black and had short hair. While she didn’t smile all the time, she did fall in love. She knew how to protect herself as well as her responsibility in the team. What’s more was that she died serving the purpose of her existence.
Like I said, my mind was blown. I was elated when I first heard the news that a fourth Matrix film was being made. The very next instant, however, I thought, ‘But Trinity died!’ I was willing to wait to find out if the makers had anything in mind about Carrie-Ann Moss’s Trinity.
Growing up with Hindi romances on screen, I was used to the shy and coy salwar kameez wearing good girl. The girl who found her love in an angry young man who was almost always emotionally unavailable. That too before and after the moment he confessed his love, or rather forced the girl to admit that his aggressive touch makes her feel loved.
Amidst such portrayal, Trinity just felt different, an alternative to the shy and coy girl I tried to be but could never be without betraying myself.
As I came across the news of a fourth Matrix film at 3 in the morning, I was hit by a realisation. The realisation that I loved the trilogy precisely for its action-packed scenes (I couldn’t have possibly understood hyper-reality then, I think) – the martial arts, weapons and everything else.
It was contrary to what I thought I believed most of my life: I don’t like to watch action films. Rather the ones with any kind of physical violence – the ones in which a villain always took away the women related to the hero and threatened to rape her (if not actually doing so), tearing the sleeves of her clothes when she resisted.
It was sometimes done in front of the hero who was supposed to be so angry that it invoked a superman level (but not really) strength in him. Which either killed the villain or at least defeated him.
Even supposed romances like Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989) and Ishq (1997) weren’t spared of such a scene. The evil laughter, the helpless crying and the anger – these sounds created a fear in my head that I haven’t been able to get rid of entirely.
A few days ago, I saw a scene from a supposedly comedy film Mr and Mrs Khiladi (1997). I was surprised when Juhi Chawla’s character began fighting with the one attempting to assault her (played by Gulshan Grover), in however, a funny way.
It didn’t last long – the hero played by Akshay Kumar had to wait for the perfect time to jump in to help. The assaulter casually shoved him aside saying, “Rape ho raha hai.”
The comical fight went on and I was disgusted. I understand parody and satire, and even dystopia. What I don’t understand is how can rape be used as a comic tool!
All my childhood I was afraid of being raped simply because of the way it has been portrayed in Hindi films. I didn’t know what it was. Neither did I understand it when I searched the term in my pocket dictionary at the age of ten. But, I was scared.
I was scared that if someone would try to take revenge on my father or brother, they will attack my mother and me. The nudity and public humiliation being nothing but bait in male power play scared me. That’s how powerful images are.
I have absolutely no idea about the amount of indifference and detachment it takes for audience to say, ‘It’s just a film!’ I have almost always found a part of me in every narrative. Mostly because I have always identified as female who brings home the realisation of the need for visibility of the gender spectrum.
It also leads to the idea that the same images that trapped my mind can be revised and shown in a different way for me to deal with the trauma. And get out of it. (as was done in ‘Silent All these Years’, Episode 19, Season 15, Grey’s Anatomy).
Hindi films have a tendency to portray ‘desirable’ women in a particular light. The traits of such desirability are long hair, an inherent sacrificing nature, Indian traditional attire and so on.
All these little traits come together to make a man fall in love with the woman. A little variation leads to the character becoming a villain or the ‘other’ woman in the story.
So, when I watched Trinity, I felt that a woman who can perform the role usually associated with men is no less desirable, her femininity isn’t questioned. In my twelve year old head, she was perfect.
She was everything I aspired to be.
At twenty five, I now question her role as always remaining secondary to that of Neo (played by Keanu Reeves). This made her another one of those brilliant women characters who (as Bell Hooks once said for Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) “was placed in the service of boy power.” But, that’s a different issue altogether.
For now, I am convinced that I don’t inherently dislike Hindi action films. I dislike the portrayal of women as a bait or object in the male power play.
We need better images of women without any ridicule involved as has been the trend in recent films that have tried to portray women in action.
Women need to be the active subjects.
We need our own Trinity(s) to inspire our girls.
Picture credits: YouTube
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Blogger. Conflicted. Literature (in English) Junkie.
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