The Predator came out today, and you should check out TK’s review for his overall thoughts on the film and whether Shane Black’s attempt at reinvigorating the franchise works. I saw the movie on Sept. 10, and I agree with TK — this is a film littered with Black’s pattern of recently problematic choices, from magical children to loyal-yet-shallowly sketched female characters, and there is this one scene that feels like a particular microcosm for the past couple of weeks, since Olivia Munn came forward to let us all know that Black hired his friend, Steven Wilder Striegel, who happens to be a sex offender to act in the movie, and that she went to Fox to get the scene cut.
Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes let us all down with his “I wasn’t disappointed in Shane, I was disappointed in the situation” comment; Keegan-Michael Key said he left TIFF early to spend the Jewish holidays with his wife and hasn’t issued a public statement; and Sterling K. Brown’s tweet thread in which he called Munn “my dear” seemed, well, patronizing.
.@oliviamunn I’m sorry you’re feeling so isolated, my dear. And I’m sorry you’ve been the only one to speak up publicly. I was not at #TIFF so I didn’t have an opportunity to be there with you. There are two main issues as far as I see it. First, what is and is not forgivable?… https://t.co/NQQpoO9kPa— Sterling K Brown (@SterlingKBrown) September 9, 2018
I don’t think Thomas Jane or Alfie Allen have said anything on the record; Augusto Aguilera in an interview seemed to back Munn (“There’s a serious issue here that Liv was able to point out”) but I don’t think did any further press; and Boyd Holbrook took until Sept. 10 to issue a statement, which admittedly I think is the best response of any male member of the cast. In his statement, Holbrook apologizes to Munn and to Striegel’s victim, and I think it’s written in a thoughtful way that assumes responsibility for his own inaction:
“It is true that I pulled out of a small amount of press on Saturday, as this type of social commentary is new to me and given the nature of the originating crime, I felt further discussion could cause unwanted trauma and pain, neither of which I wanted to incite to the anonymous young woman. I now realize that my understanding of the situation was not the full picture and the last thing I want is for Olivia to ever feel abandoned or alone. We are in the midst of a very crucial and important time and it is imperative that we keep listening.”
24-year-old Paige Carnes has now come forward to “reclaim my identity” and thank Munn for her actions. And Black, who Munn said previously has not apologized to her personally for forcing her to act in a scene alongside Striegel, used the Los Angeles premiere on Wednesday night to own up to “an error in judgment that is irresponsible.”
So on the surface, it seems like this is all wrapping up, especially Black’s “I failed” statement on Sept. 12. You can just enjoy The Predator now, right? Well … no. Nope! And that is primarily because of this one scene in the film that is exactly like the media storm in which Munn found herself: a woman alone in the middle of a group of men who are trying to convince you that what you experienced isn’t really what happened, and even if it did, it isn’t that bad. Isn’t that GREAT? Being a woman is so easy and breezy and not stressful because of men at all!
Some background for the scene: In the film, Holbrook plays McKenna, a military sniper who crosses paths with a crash-landed Predator; he’s picked up by the U.S. government and dumped on a Veterans Affairs bus with a rag-tag group of onetime soldiers, including former Marines Nebraska (Rhodes) and Lynch (Allen), former Blackhawk helicopter pilot Nettles (Aguilera), and former soldiers Coyle (Key) and Baxley (Jane), who served together in Afghanistan. They break out of their bus and escape, picking up Johns Hopkins University scientist Dr. Casey Bracket (Munn), who was trying to shoot a tranquilizer into the Predator. Instead, she accidentally shoots herself, and the men take her to a motel room.
They’re very aware of how to conduct themselves to ensure that Casey doesn’t think they’re dangerous: Although they litter her bed with trinkets (Nettles makes her a unicorn out of aluminum foil), McKenna urges them not to hover over her while she’s sleeping. That seems kind of considerate, right? But then, when Casey wakes up and freaks out, they laugh at her surprise and discomfort. They took bets over whether she would reach for a gun and whether she would try to shoot McKenna. And when she tries to leave, Baxley, who has Tourette syndrome, says to her that he would like to “eat your pussy.”
How does that go over? Not well! Casey, rightfully, is disgusted, asking him if she really heard him say that, and immediately, the men jump in to defend their friend. They lie to her, saying she misheard Baxley; they downplay what just happened; they insist that he must have said “You’re pushy,” as if that’s somehow better. And eventually, Casey just gives up. She’s not going to win against this crowd of men telling her her experience was invalid or misremembered or just plain false. Why keep trying? And that imbalance between the male characters and Casey continues throughout The Predator; she keeps getting pushed around by these men who are ostensibly protecting her — especially Nebraska, who mocks her interest in collecting biological samples of the Predator and who at point drags her away from doing so — and although we don’t see Holbrook or Rhodes shirtless even once, there’s an entire scene where Casey is nude for no reason. It’s totally unnecessary, and yet it totally makes sense given what this movie is.
But Munn, in real life, did keep pushing back against men who sought to lessen her voice. She did stand up for what was right. And although it seems like this news story has run its course, just look to the content of the film itself to get a better understanding of what women face every damn day. You may be one of the world’s most brilliant minds, you may be the key to understanding why some bloodthirsty aliens are coming to the planet to kill us all, and men will still think they can win you over with a shitty trinket and can shut you up by speaking louder than you.
Reason a bajillion to overthrow the patriarchy, right fucking here.
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Image sources (in order of posting): 20th Century Fox/Epk.tv, 20th Century Fox/Epk.tv