I finally saw "Dunkirk." I'm no film critic, so I won't offer much of that here. I do appreciate war movies more than chick flicks, and as such, found the bizarre reactions in the name of feminist pearl-clutching of the film silly at best, ignorant at worst. Modern feminism is such a weak movement now it couldn't even critique a male-dominated film with much precision, let alone, remain stalwart in their own beliefs, in spite of such a movie.
While the evacuation of the shores of Dunkirk in real life must have surely been a miraculous event, "Dunkirk" the film depicting it seemed more dedicated to being artistically brilliant rather than a spot-on historical representation. I don't care for the war films I see to be artistic renditions of historical events (just my personal taste), and "Dunkirk," with its tension-filled score, visually-stunning cinematography, and little dialogue or character development fits more in the artistic category. What "Dunkirk" lacked in blood and guts it made up for in beautiful aerial shots; what it lacked in historical perspective and sequential clarity, it made up for in three narrative strands that took place over three different overlapping time periods, coalescing together, as one might predict, at the film's conclusion.
While feminist outlets immediately complained (even pre-release) that "Dunkirk" was surely going to be a spotlight for male braggadocio, it failed to be even that, although that's not necessarily a critique. This take from Marie Claire was particularly hot and so bold I half-expected it to be spot on, at least from a feminist perspective.
However, if anyone from the publication even watched the movie, it's obvious the film sets out to accomplish many things: reassuring American, British, French, or German females of a serviceman's "maleness" was hardly one of them. This doesn't mean the film failed to paint men in a positive light either -- just that braggadocio was hardly a take away. If anything, several characters, particularly the younger British soldiers who are frightened, tired, and simply trying not to die, portrays maleness like "The Real Housewives" franchise portrays femininity. Accurate, yes, but desirable, enviable, or threatening to feminism? No.
At the film's end and several harrowing escapes from death's certain grip, Harry Styles' character tells a man offering kudos, "All we did was survive."
Indeed, whether it's young British soldiers taking on German fire from inside a beached boat to servicemen jumping into the ocean from yet another bombed-and-sinking destroyer, what harrowing ordeals men will endure for their brothers, their country, and ultimately for freedom, cannot and should not be underestimated or overlooked.
Are publications like Marie Claire so wobbly in their own feminist beliefs they found a film depicting an almost entirely-male tale of survival that threatening? Much has been said of the lack of women in "Dunkirk" or really, most World War II films. Women were an integral part of that era and served in many valuable ways -- not the least of which were the WAVES. But as there were hardly, if any women, among the 400,000 stranded on the shores of France, alas, they were hardly featured.
This isn't a blow to feminism, but a part of history. This would be like a man watching a woman give birth and upon seeing her triumphantly and yet fondly cuddle her newborn baby demand recognition for his small but intrinsic role in the event that created that moment.
Complaining about what men did in the heroic moments of World War II, as per "Saving Private Ryan" or remaining full of righteous indignation about the suffering men endured as per "Dunkirk" (save for the glorious dog fights Tom Hardy's character wins repeatedly) seems not only ignorant but ungrateful -- which is more poisonous to the movement, nay, to history?
Feminists want it both ways: They want to be recognized regardless of sex, but pout when they're not recognized because of their sex, even at the risk of depicting history wrongly -- even at the risk of belittling the sacrifice and heroism of their male counterparts and aggrandizing themselves for roles which they did not participate. Instead of sniveling about maleness, perhaps feminists should commit to telling the world what women did during World War II. Or at the very least, get the story right: That's why they can complain in English, not German.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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