Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ah, Hollywood

From the Publisher's Weekly review of P.D. James' Children of Men (emphasis mine):
Near the end of the 20th century, for reasons beyond the grasp of modern science, human sperm count went to zero.
From the trailer for Alfonso Cuáron's upcoming adaptation of Children of Men, spoken by Michael Caine's character (again, emphasis mine):
"The ultimate mystery--why are women infertile?"

10 comments:

Joe Sherry said...

Right, because you wouldn't want men to feel emasculated because of a planetwide zero sperm count...so let's blame the women.

Gotcha.

Fred said...

It's a really stupid, pointless and offensive change, but mostly I'm just hoping that the movie improves on the book, which I thought was interesting and frightening right up until the point it devolved into a protracted chase sequence.

From the trailer, the film looks great, but it doesn't give me a lot of hope that its second half isn't just a lot of running from the baddies.

Anonymous said...

I can't get the trailer to load. Do you know if they're leaving in the part about the kitten christenings?

Lisa

Abigail Nussbaum said...

No idea about the kittens, Lisa - there wasn't any mention of them in the trailer but that strikes me as the sort of detail that wouldn't necessarily make it into promos (do you have Quicktime installed, by the way? That might be why you can't play the file).

I can't say that I'm looking forward to this film, Fred. I love Clive Owen and Julianne Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor, but the trailer makes the film look simplistic and unconvincing in its central conceit. Plus, I'm made nervous by the fact that the pregnant woman doesn't get any lines.

Anonymous said...

I know nothing of the novel but Alfonso Cuáron is probably the greatest living adaptor for film I can think of.

S

Todd said...

Well, it doesn't look like anyone commenting here has seen the movie, so I thought I'd throw my two cents in. My understanding is that it was changed from male to female infertility to make it more visceral, and I think it works. The ability to father children is much less important to male identity than the ability to bear children is to female identity. And when we see the pregnant woman, Kee, the question is "What makes this woman so extraordinary that she can have children?", rather than "Whoa, who's the stud who got her knocked up?" But then, like Hitchcock's The Birds, providing answers to the audience's questions is not the movie's intent. Kee could almost be seen as a McGuffin, except that she is quite possibly the future of humanity. I doubt very much that there is any latent misogyny in that.

And it's a great movie. I didn't realize just how great until it was almost over, but if you ever want a reason to dismiss the Academy Awards, look no further than that Children of Men did not win Best Cinematography.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

The ability to father children is much less important to male identity than the ability to bear children is to female identity

I think that's highly debatable. Male fertility is much more strongly tied to our culture's perception of masculinity than female fertility is to femininity. There's a stigma attached to having 'slow swimmers' that doesn't have a female analogue.

At any rate, Children of Men doesn't have female protagonists to embody this alleged loss of self-image through infertility. Julian is killed off rather early on, and Kee is more of a plot device - a McGuffin, as you put it - than a character. If the filmmakers were trying to tie the film's emotional core to infertility, rather than, as they end up doing, to childlessness (and therefore future-lessness), they would have stuck with male infertility in order to take advantage of the angst it would cause Theo.

In spite of my annoyance at this deviation from the book, I quite liked Children of Men. Though, as I've said before, it's an intelligently-made film, but not an intelligent one. As you say, its greatest accomplishments are visual.

Todd said...

I was thinking more about self-identity than social standing. A man who couldn't "produce" might not be too keen on talking about it in the locker room, but I don't think he'd suffer the same emotional blow as a woman who found out she was barren.

To put it glibly, the woman needs a big hug, and probably more than one. The guy just needs another beer.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Self-identity is defined, in many ways, by societal norms. If society tells a man that being infertile makes his less masculine, he's probably going to believe it. Society does not tell a woman that she is less feminine if she can't have children, though individual women may or may not believe this due to other influences.

To put it glibly, the woman needs a big hug, and probably more than one. The guy just needs another beer.

That's not so much glib as so grossly over-generalized as to have only an incidental relationship with the truth.

Todd said...

Well, I wasn't exactly reaching for profundity with that, just maybe trying for a bit of a chuckle. I guess it didn't work. Goodbye.

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