Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. . . Looks Sexist as Hell

There's been this interesting trend of genre films that fall squarely into the category of "sounds like a joke but is totally a real movie" making the rounds in Hollywood recently. Sometimes it works, producing something as singularly ridiculous-but-hilariously-enjoyable as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But sometimes you get movies like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a movie that seems cut from a more blood-soaked end of the same cloth as Van Helsing.

A movie that just released this red band trailer. (content warning!)

Okay. Wow.

Now, I know that this film is not something that one takes seriously (there's a shout-out to Gladiator of all things in there), and as a fan of junky monster movies, there's some neat looking stuff on display, as well as some funny visual gags (milk bottles!). But on the whole, this trailer makes me uncomfortable as all get-out, and I'm not just talking about the fact that actual modern-day practitioners who identify as "witches" is a real thing.

No, this just looks SUPER misogynist.

First off, I get that the "point" is to riff on the fairy tale, but it casts women not only as the villains of the film, but (it appears) also as the waifish love interest and the damsel-in-distress sister. So we're looking at a conservative estimate of two-and-a-half strikes already. That would be odd enough if the film didn't take such obvious glee in depicting over-the-top gruesome deaths of said witches, up to and including "Shut up while I'm talking" and "with a face like that" comments from the alpha male lead. So these female antagonists are getting dehumanized (but not enough to stop being Famke Jansen levels of sexy) in all kinds of ways. Yay?

That just strikes me as - at best - execution in very questionable taste. Because to bring in an historical perspective, the witch trails and the perception of witchcraft that this fairy tale and ones like it were created to excuse/legitimize were nothing more than a way of institutionalizing sexism. Uppity women with arcane knowledge that wasn't regulated by some aspect of the patriarchal society of the time? She's a witch! Burn 'em all!

Yeah, combined with everything else, that particular sentiment just comes off. . . wrong. The one positive I can see coming from this would be if the film did something clever and have some sort of pay-off for Hansel's 80's movie meathead "Some people say not all witches are bad" diatribe, and pull a final-act reveal that his love interest is, herself, a good witch. Which would be a pretty cool idea.

Of course, it would be even cooler if Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow hadn't done exactly that over a decade ago.

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