Spoilers and fuckery to follow.
OK, so if you haven’t read up on Passengers yet, you might be under the impression it’s a sweet little space Titanic love story. Kind of, like, if Titanic was the story of Jack yanking Rose out of a lifeboat by the hair against her will and then cuddling up with her to listen to the nice band play on as they drown and freeze.
As Kristy discusses here, Passengers is steeped in rape culture like the worst teabaggiest tea bag. Basically, Chris Pratt’s Jim wakes up far too early on a spaceship and is destined to live out his days slowing going insane from crushing loneliness. That sucks. So he wakes up the pretty girl he’s become obsessed with and has studied up on, ultimately to determine she’s the ONE, based on very superficial base criteria.
It’s not that I have no sympathy for Jim’s dilemma and pain. But the moment he breaks Aurora from her hibernation, the film crosses a line it refuses to fully acknowledge, and so the romance is not fun, but FUBAR. This is not the premise of a love story: Boy sees girl. Boy becomes obsessed with girl from afar, decides he loves her, decides they are made for each other, she just doesn’t know it yet. Guy rips the girl out of her life, abducts her to live with him in a bunker she can’t escape.
Don’t worry—the abuse disguised as a love story continues to a horrifying degree and the movie has absolutely no idea, continuing to think itself heroic and epic.
When Aurora does find out — after months of having sex with the man she has no idea abducted her — the heartbroken heroine tries to avoid Jim. This shouldn’t be difficult on a spaceship designed for 5,000 people to live for the final four months of the journey. But Jim won’t let her go; he values his need to explain himself over her wish for some space. He sneaks up on her while she’s eating. When she flees, he uses the ship’s announcement system to broadcast his apology as she’s jogging. She’s literally running from him, but can’t escape!
Of course, the film has met a great deal of outrage as this information has come to light in reviews. That’s why director Morten Tyldum has acknowledged the horror of the moviegoing public. JK GUYZ.
That’s what we do. It’s a desperate need, that you do at a desperate hour. And I think it’s interesting that characters do that. They they make dark choices. I think it’s also, and I think it’s big kudos to Chris [Pratt]’s character. This is something people, everybody’s been afraid of that. “Will we sympathize with him? Would you like him?” But the thing is that you understand him. That’s some of his power as an actor is that you can really identify with his this man who goes through this and does this, because I think it’s something most of us would have done.
And you know what? Here’s the thing. I think he’s right. It’s wrong that he’s right, but that a lot of people would in fact rob someone of their entire future, dominate a woman’s entire existence and take it as his own, something he is entitled to and deserves because she’s a non-human possession. That’s what rape culture is. As long as rape culture exists, as long as people can understand and explain away this choice in this film, he’ll be right. And how fucked up is that?
Because now is not the time for your “not all men” argument. This is something people are trying to explain as wholly understandable and sympathetic and ultimately forgivable. And they believe it—they’re not just trying to salvage a tainted film. And a lot of people believe the same thing. A lot of people would do the same thing.
Because a woman’s choices, her very life, does not matter as much as a man’s desire to possess those choices and life.
But don’t worry—at the end, he gives her the option of going back to sleep. He robs her of her existence and then gives it back as a gift or sacrifice. So it’s not hers to have always owned, but his to give her. Something for which she has to be grateful for, but is no real option because now she can’t leave him alone to die. Her hand has been forced, a hand that was taken from her the second he woke her up, and she’s stuck accepting this new world.
And Tyldum forgives him.
I have. I have forgiven him. Because I also understand him in that moment. That moment, driven so far. I think that the solitude and the isolation, how it would impact you, and how you’re willing to do questionable things when we’re driven far enough. I think that’s actually honest. I think he did a very honest thing that I think a lot of people would have done if they had the opportunity to do.
And maybe they would. And they’d apparently also get to be human and honest, ever the hero, ever the protagonist.
That’s rape culture.