By Sandra Kobrin
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
"The Brave One" offers moviegoers the spectacle of a woman on a blood-spattering vigilante rampage. Sandy Kobrin says the plot is a perverted fantasy of women's actual relationship to guns and violence.
(WOMENSENEWS)--"The Brave One," released by Warner Bros. last week, grossed $14 million and topped the weekend box office.
But for my money it's a real loser.
Jodie Foster plays a murderous vigilante who kills bad men--and interestingly enough, only men--right and left. Her blood-spattering spree is triggered by watching her fiance get killed before her eyes.
I'm disappointed that Foster--who won an Oscar for her intelligent and poignant performance as a rape survivor in "The Accused"--has chosen to portray a woman who buys a gun and turns into an almost cartoon-like shooting machine.
I know it's just a movie, and some people could view the over-the-top violence as a major statement against guns and gun violence. In interviews Foster has said her character "is ashamed of who she is and hates what she's becomes."
But the movie is nonetheless a bloody shooting fest and I'm not inclined to be too nuanced, subtle or ironic about this blast of big-budget violent entertainment as long as I'm living in the United States, the most heavily armed society in the world.
The 2007 Small Arms Survey by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies finds that the United States has 90 guns for every 100 citizens. U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world's 875 million known firearms, and about 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States.
Amid all this gun craziness along comes Hollywood, trying to sell us on the idea that women are just as into the violence as our male counterparts or can be. But that's just wrong.
Women and men don't own or use guns equally and sticking one in our hands doesn't give us equality.
"Males represent 77 percent of homicide victims and nearly 90 percent of offenders," a 2005 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics finds. "The victimization rates for males were three times higher than the rates for females. The offending rates for males were eight times higher than the rates for females. The relationship between the victim and the offender differs for female and male victims, female victims are more likely than male victims to be killed by an intimate or family member. Male victims are more likely than female victims to be killed by acquaintances or strangers."
To put it simply, most homicides are men going out and killing other men.
Contrary to the behavior of Foster's fictional character, women are not prone to stranger-slaying.
When a woman does kill it is most often an intimate partner, family member, someone she knew. Not a strange "bad guy." Take a look at the 55 women currently on death row. The overwhelming majority of them are there for killing their partners or children or someone they knew, not strangers. These women didn't walk the streets, looking for trouble, or to kill for killing's sake.
Incidents of domestic violence often contribute to homicides women commit.
The overwhelming majority of the women incarcerated for killing men had been battered by those men, according to Free Battered Women, the San Francisco advocacy group. Most of these women in prison for homicide had only one victim, the abuser.
That Bureau of Justice report concurs. "For the years 1976-2005 combined, among all homicide victims, females are particularly at risk for intimate killings and sex-related homicides," it says.
"The Brave One" also bolsters the myth that women can use guns--as the National Rifle Association Web site puts it--for "personal safety strategies" and "refusing to be a victim."
Nothing could be further from the truth. Women have been further endangered rather than protected by the proliferation of handguns.
When women do purchase handguns, they use them on themselves more often than on anyone else.
According to the Washington-based anti-gun Brady Campaign, regions with higher levels of handgun ownership by women correspond to higher suicide rates for women.
Although women have higher rates of depression than men, it is the handgun-suicide connection--rather than depression--that accounts for higher suicide completion rates.
Numbers also show that women who buy handguns don't use them to kill or defend themselves. On the contrary, the gun owner is often killed by a third party who has gained access to her weapon.
A 2005 Amnesty International study compared female homicide rates with male and female gun ownership levels in 25 high-income countries. The authors found that where firearms are more available to people, more women are killed.
It's particularly galling to see women drafted in the Hollywood vigilante-killer role when brave women can so often be found at the forefront of antiwar efforts and gun control.
A 2005 report by Amnesty International on women and guns found women around the world calling "for tougher arms controls, for safer communities and for respect for women's human rights. Their campaigns are working to rid not only their own lives, but also those of their families and communities of the ravages of gun violence."
I know we can't expect Hollywood to stop putting guns into women's hands.
But maybe we can give them some ideas for some even scarier movies about women.
How about a flick that shows formidable women using their brains, power and sex appeal to take the guns away from the guys without using physical force? Maybe Foster can play someone like Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein or Hillary Clinton; intelligent, powerful women who have consistently voted for gun control, getting them an F rating by gun lobbyists.
Or maybe a big budget update of "Lysistrata," the Aristophanes play about women who withhold sex from their husbands to stop the Peloponnesian War. That would be really scary.
Sandra Kobrin is a Los Angeles writer and columnist.
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