|Carey Mulligan and Leonardo |
DiCaprio in the new film
Confession time. I'm one of those rare birds that made it through a K-12 education in the United States and never read The Great Gatsby. As such, watching Baz Luhrmann's new adaptated film was my first real exposure to the story. I think that a story which is 88 years old shouldn't require a spoiler alert, but just in case, consider it alerted.
I'm not going to do a gender analysis of the film overall, because I don't know what's specific to Luhrmann's retelling vs. F. Scott Fitzgerald's original text. What I do know is that my gut reaction to the main female character, Daisy, as portrayed by Carey Mulligan, was to feel incredibly sad for her.
All around, Daisy seems trapped (which I suppose, is a fitting theme for the time period.) She's stuck in a love triangle between her long lost lover, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton.) She's stuck in a life of idleness (but also one full of opulence and excess, to be fair.) And she's ultimately trapped with the husband she no longer loves, living through the guilt and shame of how everything ends for Jay.
In the climax of the film Daisy and Jay are going to reveal their love to Tom. Jay just keeps forcefully pushing Daisy to tell Tom she never loved him...a feeling which isn't true but Jay desperately needs it to be. His behavior at that point treads into abuse and I immediately felt that he was no better than Tom, after all. Daisy appears trapped between two men who seem more consumed with their posturing for one another and possessing her than for her or her feelings. I've seen Daisy referred to as a tragic character, and to that much I must agree. She's certainly a captive of the domestic expectations of the day and the will of the men around her. And really, I can't tell if all this captivity is intended to be a cautionary tale to the audience or if it's just portrayed as an inevitability of life.
In the end, Daisy and Jay drive off erratically, accidentally striking and killing Tom's mistress. Daisy was at the wheel, but Jay wants everyone to believe it was him to protect her. Tom tells the mistress' husband that it was Jay's car, and the husband shoots Jay in his pool. On this point, what has been particularly striking to me is how this film, made 88 years after the story is written, has garnered some reactions which show us how little progress we've made toward ending sexism.
|[Image text: Hans Lara Facebook status, "Moral of The Great Gatsby: Never let a woman drive. You'll get shot."]|
They didn't let me down.
Before anyone counters with the ever-popular, "It's just a joke, calm down!" I will (again) refer everyone to this:
So no, this type of thing isn't funny. It's just another of the hundreds of daily reminders that our society is deeply misogynistic. I hope that people like Hans Lara are more and more rare. Honestly, I can't tell if that's happening, but it is certainly my wish. I hope that more people see this film and DO think of Daisy's fate as a cautionary tale about the suppression and control of female autonomy. I hope people actually think about that instead of rushing to a tired, sexist stereotype.
Let's be real. We don't need more sexist jokes.
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