A lot of interesting people like Sin City. People that I don’t think have anything especially sadistic inherent in their nature, and aren’t even overtly misogynistic. Ebert (who is not one of these interesting people I’m talking about) called it brilliant, giving it a full-star rating. I think what’s going on here is that people are dismissing the entire point of the film as modern day film noir, and not giving a second thought about the potential damage inflicted its target audience.
“I’ve watched you for days…it’s not just your face, it’s your figure.”
From the very first frame of Sin City, women are defined by their sexuality. They are either predators or innocents. In need of protection, or figures to hide from. And men are always the ones manipulating these characterizations. The Woman in Red in the first scene of the film is set up as a potential sexual conquest by the way we are introduced to her: male voice-over through the eyes of the assassin. We know she is beautiful, sexy, vulnerable, because we are told so by the Josh Hartnett character. This habit carries through the film, with constant male narration. Nancy Callahan is a helpless victim about to be violated by a man. Goldie is the perfect woman because of her interaction with a man. And Gail is bloodthirsty because of her position as a prostitute in a mean man’s world. Even the one lesbian character is shown topless in a g-string, immediately available for the male, heterosexual gaze. And once she has been threatened, she is suddenly dependent on a male to save her.
Just because you give a prostitute a gun, does not mean you’re a feminist.
Here is Gail, presented in exactly the way one would expect: a figurine. Someone to be manipulated and handled in whatever way suits your fancy, including masochistic manipulation of her gun. I’m going to go ahead and embrace Freud here and claim that if a gun was ever a penis, that gun is the biggest penis of them all. With all the insults involving male genitals thrown around in this movie, I think it’s safe to say that those who hold the phallus are in power for a reason. Might makes right. And the way to throw your might around is through violence and only violence. But never for herself (as is the case with the females habitating Sin City), since there is always a man on the outskirts to fawn over and then depend on. And while Miho the Japanese assassin is assuredly as quick, agile, and viscious as any man int he film, she is also scantily clad and reactionary, achieving everything for male ends.
Lets talk about penises.
This film is full of the removal of them! It seems like every character in the film (male and female included) would rather die than to have their penises (whether literal or figurative) removed. More than once it is referred to as a weapon, and in this world of hyped-up, violent sex, it is the most dangerous weapon. Without the penis, no one can survive. So females must adopt the phallus and the attitude associated with it in order to even survive. This is what I’m talking about when I refer to the female’s sexuality being manipulated by men, at least in the case of the prostitutes. Because the phallus is such a danger to women, they must have one. There is no choice in the matter. It is either be male or be dead (perhaps by ingestion!). No one is suggesting this is a realistic message for a contemporary world, but there is also no active resistance to the world of Sin City. Hookers with guns are totally awesome! They have been seen as being empowered women who are making an out-of-control-situation their own business. In the case of this film, I’m calling bullshit.
So, yes, Sin City does look cool. It looks fantastic, even. But I am suggesting that making it look this good is only a vehicle for a misogynistic and sadistic message to reach the young adult males the film was marketed for.