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Black Snake Moan, again.

July 6th, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

So I finally mustered up the courage to see Black Snake Moan - you know, the film that we were mustering up the courage to see because of its disturbing marketing with blatantly mysoginistic and racist overtones? The one where a constantly half naked Christina Ricci plays Rae, a promiscuous southern girl who is chained to a radiator by Samuel L. Jackson’s character after he finds her on a dirt road, raped, beaten and left for dead? So, I rented it, watched it, and then asked myself the question: Is this a mysoginstic film?

Yah, well, the answer is: I don’t know.

Samuel L. Jackson had the exact same answer: Is Black Snake Moan a Misogynist Film?

“I don’t know. There are a lot of films you can call misogynist. I think that Christina’s performance is one of the bravest performances I’ve seen that a young actress would take. I’m sure there are a lot of young women who wouldn’t touch this thing… Like I said, we talk about sexual dysfunction and we talk about nymphomania, but we never see what that process is. It’s kind of interesting watching whatever this thing is that internally takes her over. The way she succumbs to it all the time rather than fighting it. She says, ‘No, no, no,’ but she always kind of lets go and lets it happen, and not realizing that her power is in resisting it.”

Let’s just say that the marketing really dumbs down what the film is actually about, and that although I spent a lot of the movie wishing someone would give Ricci’s character new pair of underpants and some pants to wear while she was chained to a radiator for about three days (urinary tract infection anyone?) I thought there was a genuine (however “arty” and exploitive) effort to explain the complexity of the promiscuities of her character. The chain, of course, is a metaphor about being in control, or as  director Chris Brewer puts it on Salon.com “being tethered to someone:”

“I question anybody to come to the end of “Black Snake Moan” and really believe I’m a misogynist — the definition of which is a hatred of women. I’m exploring something that has nothing to do with race or gender. I’m the crazy girl on the end of that chain. I’m the one who felt I was losing control of my mind and my body because I was not tethered to anyone. And I needed to be snapped back.”

Okay, perhaps that’s a stretch when you watch the film and try to figure out why she has to be naked for two thirds of it with no good reason. Having said that, what the marketing of the film fails to reveal is that Rae’s psychological rationale for her sexual behavious is fairly well fleshed out, as is Jackson’s twisted and misguided form of “saving her.” Quite frankly, I came to the end of the film feeling confused about my sympathies for both characters, which I suppose is what good film making is supposed to do?

I think Christina Ricci sums of the perhaps twisted appeal of a film like this to someone (a femisinist) like myself:

“I think there are millions of women like Rae out there. The link between childhood sexual abuse and promiscuity in women and low self-worth and post-traumatic stress and low self-esteem, that link has been well established. And when I read the script, she was such an honest representation in a way without judgment on that kind of person. I thought, ‘Oh, it’s so great to see someone who’s not sugar coated,’ because that implies judgment.”

Anyone else seen it?

Tags: arts

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