Gender in Children of Men
May 2, 2019 at 9:41 pm #1408Catherine HenzelParticipant
<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I would like to preface this discussion by saying that I was thoroughly impressed with </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Children of Men. </span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Its devastating and stark representation of an all too realistic apocalypse was haunting and effective. The filmography and the screenwriting were well done, and as a viewer, I was both invested and entertained. It was not until we began our discussion in class after the movie that I started to think more critically about the gender roles at play in </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Children of Men. </span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I found that the more I thought about it the more I was disappointed that in a narrative focused around female infertility with females at the forefront of resistance movements, the film’s protagonist was still male. I was reading a little bit more into the writing of the movie in comparison to the book because I knew from our discussion that P.D. James had originally identified the infertility problem as residing with males. I was interested to find that in an interview in 2007 with director Cuaron, he confirmed that he swapped the origin of the fertility issues in the film to women (This was not what we had believed to be the case in our class discussion post-viewing). He declined to explain why because </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Children of Men </span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>isn’t about why or how humanity got to the point we see them at; it is about where to go from there. </span>
<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I thought it would be worth it to address a few of the key differences that I noted between the film and novel from synopses of the novel online. Full disclosure that I have not read P. D. James’ novel and so if any of you have and would like to contribute to this, in particular, that would be wonderful. I tried to focus mainly on differences with the writing of the female characters, the most prevalent to me is the difference in Julian’s character. In the film, Julian is Theo’s estranged wife but in the novel, they had never met before and Julian is married to the leader of the Fishes. Julian is also the pregnant woman in the novel instead of Kee in the movie, and the newborn baby in the novel is male, not female. In terms of gender roles, those are the key (no pun intended) differences in the film adaptation. I found a lot of these changes to be fairly progressive, such as Julian running Fishes on her own. But with these changes, I longed for the strong female characters to be able to take the spotlight. </span>
<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>We have spent a lot of time in this class debating who is the Hero in each movie, and while I can see that Theo follows a clear Hero’s Journey in </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Children of Men, </span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>it is also clear that (as we also discussed in class) he is not particularly heroic. At the beginning of the movie Theo seems to be motivated by money, and though he eventually chooses to protect Kee when he could have escaped himself and let her be used for the Fishes’ revolution he is not often portrayed as particularly savvy in battle or seem to have much of a character arc besides what progresses in that night he slept at the Fishes house after Julian’s death. Kee, on the other hand, has gone through several trials already and is willing to go through so many more by the time the movie has ended. She also is the survivor at the end of the movie, and she and her female baby are the potential saving grace of humanity. The women are the ones who seem capable of leading humanity from this fallen place, whether it is through fertility in Kee or through non-corrupt leadership in Julian. Theo, on the other hand, brings nothing to the table except a rich connection he exploits once for papers that never even get used. I would have liked to have seen this female-centric narrative told from a female perspective, especially since in a world where female infertility has been the root cause of a global economic and social collapse, the female experience is going to be very different from the male experience. </span>
<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The question then that I would like to pose, is how a female perspective would have changed the film narrative in your opinions? Do you think that this is a relevant change to make? </span>May 4, 2019 at 9:59 pm #1409Shaina FifieldParticipant
I also found this Children of Men to be a very powerful film. Gender does play a big role in film, and I do feel that if this film had a female perspective it would have been a fairly different film. I think that if Theo’s character was a female it would bring the message, “women supporting women”, but in this case it made it very different. Theo, being a man, chooses to support this woman that he had just met, because being the hero that he is wants to see that the actions that he has taken to have something good come from it. I think that Theo being a man creates a more powerful message to the audience, because it is a situation that would be unexpected. I also agree that some of Theo’s actions seem to be unheroic, but he had heroic intentions.May 6, 2019 at 8:21 am #1411Kelsey KwandransParticipant
<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I also definitely enjoyed this film, though I was a bit bugged by the lack of explanation in the movie or the interview as mentioned about why the change was made to have women be infertile. I found that I really liked Theo as the main character. To me he seemed a hero in a refreshing way, focused mainly on evading trouble and helping Kee to do the same, trying to avoid fights all-together which seems more realistic for someone just thrust into this situation. I am not sure how the movie would have been different if there were a female lead. I think I agree that it would come across as having a different message, whether that is women supporting women as stated or more about the aftermath of the loss of their child as a connection to saving this child, but if they presented the character in the same light in terms of being detached or resigned in the beginning to realizing the importance of this task and taking on the responsibility, maybe it could have been a similar role, but probably with different implications. </span>
<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The way the movie is now, I do think that most of the women definitely have more heroic actions, like Julian, Miriam, Kee, and even Marichka. However, at this point I think maybe it isn’t actually about who is more heroic (like Rick or Victor in </span><i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Casablanca</span></i><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>, for example), but who goes through the transformation. While it does seem off in a movie with such a focus on women, both through infertility and through those trying to make a change, I think it is Theo’s transformation from inaction to investment that makes him the focus or hero of the movie. </span>May 6, 2019 at 11:11 am #1412Brittany PrattParticipant
I also found myself thinking a lot about gender watching Children of Men. In regards to our hero being male in the film, I agree that making the hero a woman would entirely change the reception. Personally, I think it would have been more powerful to woman in the hero role and it would have felt a little less like there was this male savior “swooping in” to save Kee. That being said, I found it refreshing that there was no forced romance between Theo and Kee, which would have been predictable and unproductive to the film as a whole.
There are so many strong heroic women in this film that everyone’s mentioned above. Considering this, I feel robbed in some sort of way that we didn’t get that female hero, especially when women are at the very core of this story.May 6, 2019 at 11:33 am #1413Nicholas SantoraParticipant
I too agree that the concept of Gender in “Children of Men” Is significant. Even looking at just the title of the film, we already know that our societies social constructs paint the gaze of film from the perspective of men; and being that our protagonist is a man who aids and protects a woman…the film definitely is male centric and involves a man as “the savior”. That being said, I also recognize that there were strong female characters in this film that proved their worth and had a purpose in this fight. Being that the film is about infertility, something that directly effects the female body and her inability to give birth, I believe that this film could have easily and effectively used a female lead as the hero of the story. This definitely would have changed the dynamic and feel of the film as a whole, but I think it would have conveyed a more powerful message…especially in recognizing the climate of our society today.May 6, 2019 at 3:25 pm #1416Raina Schoen ThomasParticipant
I’m not sure if this was ever fully established in class, but if the fertility issue is in the female population alone, having a woman as the hero would have added some extra layers to character. If it was a woman assisting Kee, the heroine’s own issues with motherhood and infertility may have played a bigger role. Both male impotency and female barrenness are very difficult, often emotional, issues. However, film and literature tend to highlight the emotional aspects of this problem in women more often than men. While there are some taught behavioral bases that can be detected between men and women, the film industry plays a role in how exaggerated these differences are. Films reflect the world, but the world goes on to mimic said reflection in a very interesting interplay.
I wonder how the issue is addressed in the novel when it is the men who cannot conceive children.
This is the first potential difference that comes to mind. There are definitely more worth discussing, but seeing how it is 4:25, I’m going to submit this and head to class.
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