scifiroots: (Zombies)
scifiroots ([personal profile] scifiroots) wrote2009-05-03 07:41 pm
Entry tags:

A Question of Gender Characteristics

For Monsters in Film class, a final analysis paper on independent viewing. I chose Resident Evil: Degeneration since I've been on an RE kick since last semester and it's a pretty straight-forward film to work on through the various assignments.


A Question of Gender Characteristics

    At first glance one might wonder what possible significance could be found in Shotaro Suga’s Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008). After all it has a generic horror-action plot wherein zombies must be killed, the heroes come out on top, and it is unclear who is the “ultimate” villain. However, whether or not filmmakers intended to invest some greater meaning, there are intriguing questions about gender that arise in the film through six key characters.

    Of the four male characters, only one character manages a positive model of masculinity. Senator Ron Davis and Frederick Downing exhibit dangerous forms of masculinity with motives of greed, desire for power, and hauteur. Curtis Miller displays “failed masculinity” to an extent. Leon Kennedy is the example of an ideal man.

    Senator Davis is portrayed as an arrogant bastard who dismisses the importance of anyone but himself and those who help him. His interest in keeping his investment in company stocks – first the Umbrella Corporation and then WilPharma – means that either he doesn’t look closely at what the companies do or he ignores questionable practices in favor of profit. His desire for power comes across in the poor treatment of his aides and condescending dismissal of opponents. He emphasizes the importance of his position by telling Leon that he can get in direct contact with the president. By the closing of the film, Davis has lost everything: WilPharma’s stock has plummeted, Davis has resigned his senate seat in the face of scandal, and it appears someone’s killed him – though the audience can only speculate on the how and possible reasons why.

    Downing is in a position of power as the head researcher of the WilPharma corporation. In this capacity he has been able to oversee all research and influence the direction of the company’s work. Downing schemes to replicate the T-virus (and possibly the G-virus) in order to sell it to terrorists. With the vaccine that the company produces, Downing also would have the opportunity to sell the vaccine to both terrorists and the countries attacked. From the information provided in the film, Downing is motivated by greed. His desire is to make as much money as he can and then retire to a private island – the life of luxury! Downing has the air of someone who thinks he’s smarter than anyone else. This arrogance is also manifested through his presumption that his actions are above recourse.

    Curtis Miller embodies a type of failed masculinity. Unlike the previously mentioned men, Curtis doesn’t appear to have any interest in power. Curtis is presented as having a decent background and a good family. The pictures of his home support this, and Angela mentions that only since the destruction of Raccoon City (and consequently, the death of his wife and child) has Curtis withdrawn and acted strangely. In this case Curtis fails to fulfill his masculine role as protector and head of his family. Not only does he lose his immediate family, he also withdraws from his sister. Curtis breaks all family connections and burns his house before he enters WilPharma and infects himself with the G-virus.  A successful man is perceived as having independent agency, but Curtis’ actions here are the result of being manipulated.

    Leon embodies an ideal form of masculinity. Leon accomplishes more than the expected heroic masculine abilities of strength, fighter, and protector. With his prior experience Leon knows how the monsters operate and thus has some ability to plan ahead. Unlike some action heroes, Leon is not interested in fighting for the sake of fighting, as is evident at the airport where his focus is on getting the survivors out safely. Leon does fit in with the typical action hero lead in that he is significant in monster-slaying (and has the most time with a gun) and he has a romantic interest. However, Leon never appears to be misogynistic, and he does not discredit Angela or Claire as fighters. What is perhaps most unusual is Leon’s ability to interact with the female lead as an equal. Although the movie doesn’t go into details, it is clear that Leon and Claire have an important history which has led them to trust and respect one another. The important scene here is after the vaccine arrives from WilPharma and Claire finds out that Terra Save’s demonstration has played a part in delaying the much-needed delivery. Leon seeks her out in a tent where Claire is brooding and feeling guilty. He keeps the typical, stoic masculine mask while speaking with her, but he comforts her by reminding that they have chosen different paths that work toward the same goals. He clearly respects her choice as a non-violent activist to combat bio-terrorism while he has chosen a more militaristic approach.

    Claire Redfield and Angela Miller are the leading ladies of Degeneration but are a far cry from damsels in distress. Both of these women can hold their own in combat, making them active agents in the battles faced in the film.

    Angela is a member of the Special Response Team (SRT) and spends most of the film geared to the teeth in body armor and armed with a machine gun. However, efforts are made to draw attention to her femininity. During her introduction scene, Angela is clearly upset as she argues on the phone to get permission to rescue the survivors inside the airport. This can be interpreted as an extension of maternal instinct. Although her partner, Greg, is interested in helping the survivors and Leon makes it possible to go in, Angela is the only character exhibiting concern and distress. Her loyalty, while not solely a feminine trait, also lends a sense of femininity. She has to be dragged away from Greg after he’s been bitten while the other characters are scared for their own safety or, like Claire and Leon, understand there’s nothing to be done. Angela’s devotion to her brother also stands out as feminine in that she tries to maintain their family while Curtis seems to have completely abandoned her. Ultimately it is her position as Leon’s love interest that leads to three scenes that call attention to her femininity. First is when she and Leon dive into the water to escape an explosion. Underwater, the two share a lengthy kiss. The next scene plays after the G-virus is supposedly eliminated; here Leon and Angela hold hands as the camera pans around them – examining their expressions and the clasped hands. The final scene is the most overt display of womanhood in the entire film. Claire, Leon, and Angela meet for a final time before parting ways. In this scene Angela has her hair down and is wearing a low-cut dress. The scene capitalizes on the opportunity to show Angela’s hair blow in the wind like a supermodel and utilizes framing that shows off her breasts – which are suddenly larger than in the rest of the film. The conversation between Leon and Angela is also more awkward than previously shown due to the thinly-veiled suggestion of “Leon, Let’s go diving again sometime.” Angela watches Leon and Claire walk away and presumably after they’re out of earshot, Claire ribs Leon good naturedly about the reference. This shows Claire and Angela in distinctly different roles.

    Claire is a strong and solid lead character. Her relationship with Leon is that of an equal. Leon trusts her to know how to handle herself in a situation. This can be seen in the airport when Leon calls attention to the fact that she knows what she’s doing due to her past experience in Raccoon City. While escaping, Leon tosses Claire his gun so that she can protect herself. She takes down the zombies closing in on her with ease. Although Claire is a non-violent activist it is clear that she can take care of herself and fight when needed. When Leon runs into Claire in WilPharma and tells her to leave the building, it is because she’s hurt. Even so, Claire ignores his instructions and determinedly makes her way up to the control room. While Angela has a distinct feminine side, Claire is largely desexualized. During the introduction of Claire, Auntie jokingly asks about her “boyfriend,” which ends up referring to Claire’s work with the WHO report. This is the only point at which any reference of sexuality is made in regards to Claire. The only familiar feminine role that Claire exhibits is during her time in the airport with Rani. She takes on a maternal role as she protects Rani during the outbreak. She also comes across as more feminine in her contrite reaction to learning that WilPharma was helping with a vaccine and Terra Save got in the way. Her response to loosely playing a part in delaying the delivery of WilPharma’s vaccine is more feminine in that it is an emotional reaction.

    Although Degeneration is a genre film that draws on a pre-existing fan base to succeed, analysis reveals that more can be taken away from the film. Observations about gender in this film suggest that similar questions can be examined in the Resident Evil franchise. With many more hours of playtime in the videogames and better development of characters, it’s intriguing to wonder what else might be uncovered in this other media form.


Works Cited

Resident Evil: Degeneration. Dir. Shotaro Suga. Perf. Alyson Court, Paul Mercier, Laura Bailey, Roger Craig Smith, and Crispin Freeman. Capcom Company, 2008.

P.S. I apologize for the sub-par writing and little depth to the material. It's my very last semester and I just don't care anymore about this stuff. My grades are in a great position so I have quite a bit of leeway in being lazy and crappy with my last papers. -_-

[personal profile] betareject 2009-05-04 01:05 am (UTC)(link)
I never considered the roles of the characters in this light but its interesting how you explained the flaws of the villains why they are flawed masculine characters. How Claire in reality is desexualized I n ever would have noticed that before but its so true!

I think this was really good though now I want to watch the movie again just to look out for these details that you mentioned =D

LOL Despite your lack of interest int his I hope you do well =D