Many of the fan visuals struck me as artists/illustrators trying out their skill and abilities, using the film as a starting point. In this sense it is a form of professional or pre-professional training. The very best entry along those lines was this one on make-up.
Pictured is Emily Browning as “Babydoll” from Sucker Punch. I found the makeup artist who did Babydoll’s makeup. Her name is Rosalina Da Silva. Here’s a picture of the facial chart with the products that were used listed.
You can check out her blog at www.amorebeautifulmakeup.com
[posted with this caption]
Discussions of fighting women in film invariably end up with opposed views: the image is an empowering vision of female agency and skill vs. the depiction is a sexist male fantasy that is oppressive to women. The discussion examples can range from referencing the ancient Amazons to Joan of Arc, from Wonder Woman to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Sucker Punch presents the ambiguity very clearly in the fantasy battle sequences: the women are dressed in variants of micro skirts with fishnet or black thigh high sheer stockings while carrying impressive weapons. For Baby Doll the outfit is a Sailor Moon style schoolgirl outfit with a bare abdomen and Japanese samurai sword and automatic pistol. Thus schoolgirl “innocence” and vulnerability is welded to aggressive martial arts skills.
There’s no absolute answer to the contradictory image because the ambiguity is precisely what makes it engaging and effective. Any individual response can be skewed to either the exploitation or empowering interpretation. And in this sense no reading is “wrong,” but is only accurate for that reader and different individuals will have different takes on it. But at the same time, the argument tends to take place with individual bloggers making arguments by lumping together their opponents, or simplifying the other to one motive. Thus beyond the pleasure of assertion of one’s views, there’s little analytical power here.
Seeing this as precisely a contradiction that cannot be resolved and which produces a productive (for capital) ambiguity can give us more of a purchase on the matter. The female fighting force is both attractive/alluring in terms of “the male gaze” (several apparent middle school or high school bloggers consciously use this term which has passed into such common usage in 35 years), and empowering and expressive of female agency. As such, it can reach the largest possible audience: fan boys and postfeminists, and of course all those who have mixed reactions themselves to the action figure.
Visuals and music
The ordinary bloggers did some posting of visuals, almost all of them taken from the official website, or slightly reprocessed from them. For example, single framegrabs from the film, usually with the dialogue at that point inserted as English language subtitles; or short GIF animations drawn from the studio materials and sometimes processed. Various YouTube clips were also available.
Music from the soundtrack (available on an album, of course) was also posted often with just a gushy comment. I didn’t find any considered or smart discussion of how the soundtrack actually worked as a film aesthetic element. But there wasn’t any substantial visual analysis of the film, although the cinematography, production design, editing and CGI processing was all highly accomplished. (That’s a judgment about its professional accomplishment, not about the film’s overall aesthetic value.)
Words to live by
One of the repeated gestures of those blogging about the film was to quote one of the various bits of dialogue in the film. (An assortment:
These seemed to be especially meaningful or portentous to the Tumblogger. E.g.: “If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. –Wiseman” [Wiseman, played by Scott Glenn, is a character in the fantasy action sections who give the gals their mission.] Now personally I find that trite and laughable. But I also remember that when I was a tween and teen I did have a love for these kind of little aphorisms and short motivational slogans. I wrote them down when I came across them, and kept them for many years. I can just ignore these things as “wisdom” (another example from Wiseman: “Don't ever write a check with your mouth you can't cash with your ass.”). [open endnotes in new page] But I can see that for others they might seem especially meaningful as part of the movie or as something that might be useful for your life.
Adolescents are, after all, in the process of trying to reconcile present reality (including their own physical and cognitive and moral development) with hopes and anxieties. Just as it’s frequently noticed that teens often have an intensified concern for spirituality (of all kinds: orthodox religion, spiritualism, exotic and outlaw beliefs), the slogan like adherence to a “simple” answer is desirable. I myself formally joined the church my parents had been sending me to for Sunday School when I was about 14; they attended, but hadn’t joined. I joined with a then-passionate belief.
Using Sucker Punch
While there were a few dedicated fan blog sites (referenced above), most of the mentions of Sucker Punch on Tumbler involved a one time posting, and often that was in passing. Even the dedicated fan blogs seemed to fade over time: one seemed to have a new post every other week after two months, and then nothing after mid-June. And there’s always a question if the bloggers are genuine fans or perhaps corporate beards.
What the raw data shows is that people connect to Sucker Punch with vastly different degrees of intensity. Some of the most enthusiastic bloggers were your typical fanboy. Some of the most negative haters were feminists. The strongest of hostile responses were often from viewers who had a strong abreaction to the fundamental story frame of rape, child rape, trafficking, forced incarceration in a mental institution, and lobotomy. Since Sucker Punch is a one-off, you didn’t have the negative reaction that some fans had to Snyder's versions of Watchmen and Dawn of the Dead for not matching the "original."
Most comments on Tumblr amounted to small talk (aka phatic communication; details on Wikpedia). Television and film comments are generally recognized as appropriate topics for small talk. From the outside, one could say that the Tumblr casual references about Sucker Punch fall in a similar pattern to another example from social networking:
So, one of my conclusions is that Sucker Punch did not generate a full fledged fan culture, and because the film was pretty much a flop (especially in the U.S., earning back its cost only by including international box office), it provides a discrete enough and efficient sample of the kind of discourse we see about most mass market entertainment films.
One feature of Tumblr’s blogging discourse allows for an expanded critical analysis. Because in making an argument for or against an interpretation of the film bloggers sometimes cite other sources, which can be hotlinked if online, anyone following the discussion can find some otherwise often overlooked or unknown articles. It’s easy to see a range of critical opinion on any popular film by using the “external reviews” link of IMDb.com: but that takes you to regular film review sites. It’s also possible to look at the discussion boards on a film in IMDb.com or on Amazon.com for the DVD, say, to find more pedestrian reviews. But given the crowdsourcing type of activity possible on Tumblr, otherwise obscure sites can come to the fore for notice. For example:
Is there a lesson here?
A. The most useful and important thing I learned from reading comments on Sucker Punch is that you can use inception as a verb:
Inception v.t. (from Inception, movie, 2009) to suddenly change something to another level of reality or consciousness.
Example: When she starts dancing in the brothel scene, Baby Doll inceptions herself into the World War One steampunk zombie trench warfare.
B. It is possible to interpret the film through the system offered by occult and Illuminati systems:
C. As a topic for further research, I’d suggest looking at gendered differences in the youth audience and relating that to research over the past decade on the use of phones and other social media as part of personality formation and social bonding. It seems that blogging is proportionately stronger and more active among women (which fits with earlier research demonstrating that, for example, while men may take most of the family photos/videos, women are the ones who make the family album, or edit and present the home movies). Research on female teen maturation supports the idea that women are more verbal, and use verbal communication (be that voice or text) as an important part of creating themselves individually and socially. Teen guys, in contrast, tend to deploy a drastically smaller number of words each day in the course of their activities. If we want to understand how feature films fit in with New Media lives, additional study here could be very important.