Submitted 4 years 11 months ago by Jo Ely.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 13:29
Sci-fi and Dystopian fiction has enormous potential to undermine stereotypes and get young people thinking about old social problems in new ways but as a genre it can also be prone to silliness, racist tropes, machismo, bad science and bad art and whilst Luc Besson's 'Lucy' is immune to none of these problems, if you have a teen or have worked with teens then you might well have come around to the view already that there's real value in engaging, at least some of the time, with the material they're choosing for themselves whilst giving them the critical tools to get the best out of it. This film is the best of the new batch of blockbuster sci-fi and has plenty of potential, as I see it, for kick-starting a conversation with teens about stereotyping, that most insidious enemy of empathy itself, all whilst holding their attention in a dramatic way and not 'preaching' (fatal). The whole film is worth watching for the ending alone. (Stop reading right now if you don't want to know the ending because this review is, in a way, one big 'Spoiler alert'.) From a feminist view point this is a controversial recommendation for me but I'm going to go ahead anyway because of the uplifting effect the film had on the small group of young women relatives/teens I took along to see it. This requires some context. For anyone who hasn't given much thought yet to how it might feel to be a teenage girl today, imagine being surrounded daily by images of female exploitation - pornography is rife amongst today's teen boys and there is also a growing pornogrification (is that a word?) of the music and the cultural icons which provide the psychological backdrop to girls lives. The message to girls is insidious and that's before you even get to the news feeds filled (as they should be, because it's important) with the many ways in which teen girls can be and are victimised daily and their voices swept under the carpet: trafficking, children's home scandals, infamous abusers and a complete disregard of the girl child infecting every level of society, from the police to social workers, BBC, governments. It's not too much of a leap to imagine that in the current environment girls and young women must feel unsafe, misunderstood, angry, voiceless, commercially exploited, and stereotyped. Above all they must feel utterly let down by the adults who are morally charged with protecting and encouraging them. It's impossible to ignore and dangerous to disregard the effect which all this might be having on the collective psyche of young women and teen girls, who are subjected to pressures in their daily lives which their elders find it hard to comprehend, but it is vital to their well being that we try to do so. Girls today, as in every age, must look to the images in the culture around them in order to imagine and reimagine themselves. We know that depression, self harm, eating disorders are all on the rise, which seems like nothing less than a collective cry for help. Watching a young woman to whom they can relate, Scarlett Johanssen, "Kicking some serious ass" as she takes control of her personal environment and shakes her world up in the process may not be exactly politically correct, but it might well be emotionally necessary to some teen girls at this point in their journey. And no more likely to lead them to violence than watching Wonder Woman high kick her way out of trouble did the previous generation of girls any harm whatsoever. At the end of the film the chief character, Lucy, does not use, or need to use, violence to assert her voice, she simply uses her new understanding to upload herself to the universe (the perfect metaphor for young female voices making themselves, and their ideas, heard on the internet, that they might use it instead of being subjected to it). There is plenty to object to with this film but it was all about the ending for me, which lifted and clarified things hugely for my little group of teens. The Internet is a realm of power in which the most successful older women have been routinely bullied, belittled and sexually slandered and we should be in no real doubt that young women and girls are watching these dramas play out. Many girls are dealing with, or have dealt with, the very same kind of bullying, slander and abuse if on a smaller scale and are being influenced by the responses of the adult women currently coming under attack. The young have no real trouble understanding that they will need more than Internet access, more than Education for their ideas to be heard in this new world order, they will also need emotional resilience and courage in spades. What better than a dramatic depiction of this very process to start that conversation with your teen? I would humbly suggest that this film might well also appeal to many of the teens who would tune out other kinds of materials (and, of course, everything will depend on your teen's personality, her taste in film, this film won't be right by any means for every young person). A few talking points/leading questions which might come in handy to guide things: What power did Lucy have at the end of the film? Did Lucy need to gun/high-kick her way out of trouble or had she found a better way to get her ideas over, to get power? Who won, the angry man with the gun or the calm young woman with her computer? How did it make you feel when Lucy took control of her environment? And (to mitigate the negatives in the film): Why did the filmmaker choose to make his mafia from the East when we know that traffickers come from every ethnic group on earth? Could Besson have done better there? Could he have been better? You can ask your girl, 'How would you have depicted the 'baddies' if this were Your film?'